Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Bush Scolds Malaysian PM

Statement on Jews 'divisive'


October 21, 2003

Bangkok, Thailand - President George W. Bush pulled the Malaysian prime minister aside at an international economic meeting yesterday to tell him his statement last week that Jews rule the world was "wrong and divisive," Bush's spokesman said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan quoted Bush as telling Mahathir Mohamad, "It stands squarely against what I believe in." Bush confronted Mahathir between meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, McClellan said, inserting himself into a simmering controversy in which Malaysian officials say their prime minister's remarks were taken out of context.

Mahathir did not bring up the dispute during an APEC panel discussion on globalization yesterday. And Bush pushed North Korea's nuclear threat to the forefront of the 21-nation summit. He had proposed a quieting of tensions the day before by offering Pyongyang a five-nation security guarantee if it would scrap its nuclear weapons program. The communist country responded yesterday with an attention-grabbing missile test, which was described as part of an annual military exercise.

Some leaders at the conference complained that security issues were dominating the meeting's stated economic agenda, but they did take up a major economic dispute and agreed to revive global trade liberalization talks that collapsed recently in Mexico.

This is the last of the annual forums that Malaysia's Mahathir will attend before retiring Oct. 31 after 22 years in power. Mahathir, a senior statesman in Asia whose pugnacious, articulate speeches against globalization and U.S. policy in the Middle East have a strong following, triggered an uproar at a summit of Islamic countries last week by stating that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."

Lost in the ensuing uproar was the thrust of Mahathir's address: that Muslims must give up violence and pursue peace.

The Asia-Pacific summit ends today with the leaders expected to pledge to intensify efforts to dismantle terror groups.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

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