Bush labels Mahathir 'hateful'

The Sydney Morning Herald

20 October 2003

US President George W Bush has condemned as "reprehensible" and "hateful" claims by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that Jews control the world, a senior White House official said today.

"Everyone thinks the comments were hateful, they are outrageous," US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told reporters covering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Bush "thinks those remarks were reprehensible," Rice said on the opening day of 21-member summit, attended by both Mahathir and the US president.

"I do not think they are emblematic of the Muslim world," she added.

Mahathir was criticised internationally last week after he made the comments in a speech in Malaysia to the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim leadership group.

In a long speech, which traced Muslim history and lamented an intellectual regression and the loss of scientific excellence in favour of a preoccupation "with minor issues such as whether tight trousers and peak caps were Islamic", Mahathir claimed that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them".

He was immediately accused of anti-Semitism.

But Mahathir, who retires at the end of the month after 22 years in power, later said his intention had been to encourage Muslims to step back from violence and rethink their strategies to gain respect and a better position in the world.

During a speech today to international business executives gathered in Bangkok, Mahathir spoke about his goals for fair trade but did not mention the flap over his earlier comments.

Howard challenged to condemn Mahathir

Prime Minister John Howard was today challenged to rouse leaders attending the APEC summit to condemn Dr Mahathir for his "anti-semitic" comments.

In a television debate with Tourism Minister Joe Hockey, Opposition foreign spokesman Kevin Rudd told Channel 7 that rather than being a "man of steel" Mr Howard had been a "man of jelly".

"John Howard, 'man of steel' actually needs to take this challenge on head on at the APEC summit and have the region condemn this man," Mr Rudd said.

"Instead of man of steel we have got a man of jelly when it comes to dealing with Mahathir rightly."

In response, Mr Hockey criticised Dr Mahathir's remarks saying it was "repulsive" to attempt to stir up global anti-semitism.

He said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer met with the acting Malaysian foreign minister and given him Australia's "very firm" view on the comments.

Malaysia won't muscle us up, says Hockey

"Prime Minister Mahathir is retiring in the next few weeks.

"We wish him a long retirement and as far as we are concerned it just demeans us to respond to these sort of comments by someone who is itching for a fight with us," Mr Hockey said.

"Malaysia is a country with a population roughly the same size as Australia and yet a much smaller economy and they're trying to muscle up to us and we are not going to respond to that sort of activity."

Mahathir calls for fair not free trade

Dr Mahathir today called for fair rather than free trade, saying poorer countries have the right to protect their "little businesses" until they can compete with the giants.

Taking sweeping broadsides at rich nations and multinational companies, he said: "Fair trade can be free, but free trade can be unfair. That's what we are asking for. Nothing much really. We are ready to be exploited but we must be fairly exploited."

Mahathir made his remarks in a speech to corporate chief executives on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. It is his last major international appearance before he retires.

Mahathir, an avowed champion of the developing world, said the poorer countries could not agree to the agenda at the failed World Trade Organisations talks in Cancun, Mexico, last month because "it was not our agenda."

The September talks collapsed after the developing countries led by India, Brazil and Malaysia banded together against rich countries in what turned out to be a dichotomy over free trade and breaking down tariffs.

Mahathir said multinational companies, although offering higher wages, can afford to pull out of a country in the event of cataclysmic losses.

But "our companies and corporations cannot afford to lose because they operate only in our country. If they lose they cannot go anywhere," he said.

Mahathir said poor countries cannot compete with rich countries, just as a Malaysian team would be thrashed by an American team playing football.

"In the first place the Malaysian never play football. I am talking about American football, not soccer. So they wouldn't know what the rules are. In the second place they are small people like me. The Americans are 240 pounds (109 kg) each."

That's why developing countries "should be allowed to protect our own little businesses, our own little banks. And when times comes we will be able to compete with giants," he said.

Mahathir also said developing countries take pride in their national industries, even if they are producing just matchsticks and cigarettes rather than aircraft.

"There is thing called national pride. It gets in the way all the time," he said.

"We would like to hold something of our own. We would like to have a small automotive industry and be able to say look this car was built by us and it runs," he said.

Malaysia's Proton car is a great source of pride for Malaysia, but it is also one of the most protected because of the high tariffs the government imposes on imported cars.



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