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Putin warns of clash of civilisations

Vladimir Radyuhin

200 delegates attend world meet of religious leaders

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of disastrous consequences of a civilisational clash between Christianity and Islam and urged religious leaders to join hands in foiling attempts to provoke the standoff.

"Attempts are being made to split the world on the basis of religion or ethnicity, to drive a wedge primarily between the Christian and Islamic communities," Mr. Putin said, opening a global conference of religious leaders in Moscow on Monday.

"In effect, the world is being forced into a conflict of civilisations, and it is necessary to fully understand as to what catastrophic consequences this confrontation could lead," he said.

Religious extremism and terrorism top the agenda of the first World Summit of Religious Leaders attended by than 200 religious leaders from 40 countries.

"We know well what a powerful uniting force religion can be, but we also see well what the activity of some extremist leaders, ideologists... can lead to," Mr. Putin said. "We see how thin the line is beyond which war and violence can be unleashed, blood can be spilt, and we must counter this with the broadest possible inter-faith dialogue."

Five Cardinals are representing the Vatican. The Dalai Lama was not invited to avoid upsetting Beijing.

Muslim leaders from Iraq were not been invited either. India is represented by the head of Udipi Math in Karnataka, Sugunendra Teertha Swamiji, and Jathedar of Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti.

The World Summit of Religious Leaders is to adopt a statement to be sent to the upcoming Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg later this month.

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