Muslim, Christian Leaders Set Up Cooperation Group

ROME - Christian and Muslim leaders attending a peace conference in Rome agreed on Thursday to set up a contact group to work out how religions can cooperate to promote understanding and campaign against terrorism.

The contact group was set up at the end of a two-day meeting hosted by the Sant' Egidio Community, a group that promotes peace and is considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

``May no one say again that his religion encourages him to war and that it shows him violence as the way to solve conflicts,'' a final appeal issued by the community said.

``May no one use God's name to kill innocent and defenseless victims. Those who use God's name to hate and who choose ways of violence abandon pure religion,'' it said.

During the conference, hastily arranged to respond to the September 11 attacks on the United States, both sides stressed that Islam could not be held responsible for the deeds of a few of its adherents.

The final appeal repeated this theme and directly addressed those who use terror.

``We address ourselves to those who kill, who spread fear, terror and hatred, who make war in God's name. The many names of God never mean war but all of them put together make up the word peace. To speak of a war of religion is absurd,'' it said.

Washington has held Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) responsible for the suicide hijacking attacks on New York and Washington and has demanded that Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s Taliban rulers hand him over or face the consequences.