BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Despite criticism by President Bush and other world leaders, an unrepentant Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad repeated his charge that Jews control the world.
In an interview published Tuesday with the Bangkok Post, Mahathir stood by his earlier statements on Jews and said the global reaction "shows that (Jews) do control the world."
"Israel is a small country. There are not many Jews in the world. But they are so arrogant that they defy the whole world. Even if the United Nations say no, they go ahead. Why? Because they have the backing of all these people," Mahathir was quoted as saying.
Mahathir, who retires at month's end after 22 years as the leader of mainly Muslim Malaysia, often makes acerbic speeches against globalization and U.S. policy in the Middle East.
He triggered an uproar last week at a summit of Islamic countries by stating that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."
That led Bush to pull him aside at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to say the remarks were "wrong and divisive," a White House spokesman said. (Related story: Bush confronts Malaysian PM)
A senior Malaysian official said Bush's personal rebuke of Mahathir, considered a senior statesman in Asia, was disrespectful.
"I consider Bush's action rude, as though he wants to determine what and how a person should speak and say something," Rais Yatim, Malaysia's de facto law minister was quoted as saying in Kuala Lumpur by the Malaysian news agency, Bernama.
And Mahathir rejected Washington's version of events, saying there had been no telling off by Bush.
"He did pull me aside, in order to explain to me why he made such a strong statement against me," Mahathir said at a news conference here at the close of the APEC summit. "Certainly, he did not rebuke me. After that, we were walking practically hand-in-hand. How do you say a person is rebuking another person if our relations are that good?"
The issue trailed Mahathir to the summit.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan quoted Bush as telling the Malaysian leader face to face that, "It stands squarely against what I believe in."
After Mahathir's latest comments published Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said, "any attempt to divide this world according to religious affiliation is the last thing we want."
"We want Jews and Christians and Muslims of goodwill cooperating," Howard told a news conference.
The thrust of Mahathir's address last week, made at the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur, was that the world's 1.3 billion Muslims had been outmaneuvered by "a few million Jews" and needed to give up violence and think hard about greater unity and improved education to defend their interests peacefully.
Mahathir said in the Bangkok Post interview that his remarks had been taken out of context, noting that in his speech he had urged Israelis and Arabs to stop killing one another.
"In my speech I condemned all violence, even the suicide bombings and I told the Muslims it's about time we stopped all these things and paused to think and do something that is much more productive," he said. "That was the whole tone of my speech, but they picked up one sentence."
US Today, Tuesday 21/10/03