Saturday Nov. 8, 2003

Bush tells new Malaysian PM he wants
better ties

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 7 U.S. President George Bush congratulated Malaysia's new prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, on Friday as dust settled after a storm of controversy caused by outgoing premier Mahathir Mohamad's remarks about Jews.
The White House joined other Western governments, and Israel, in condemning Mahathir's comment that ''Jews ruled this world by proxy,'' made to an October summit of Islamic nations in Malaysia.
Mahathir retired a week ago after 22 years in power. Abdullah is his hand-picked successor.
Bush highlighted areas of common ground with Abdullah, who had stressed the need to defeat terror, reject extremism, fight corruption, promote religious tolerance and protect the rights of the individual in his inaugural address to parliament.
''I look forward to working with you and your government on all these important issues and to strengthen our bilateral ties in the months ahead,'' Bush wrote in a letter, excerpts of which were released by the U.S. embassy.
The White House sent no farewell message to Mahathir on his last day in office, though the waspish 78-year-old had one for Bush: ''It doesn't pay not to tell the truth.''
Mahathir denies Bush ever rebuked him over his comments on Jews when they met at an Asia-Pacific summit in late October, despite the U.S. leader's claims to the contrary.
Mahathir had also disbelieved the U.S. justification for the invasion of Iraq, namely a credible threat of weapons of mass destruction.
Abdullah responded to questions from journalists on Thursday over Mahathir's controversial speech, saying it was not meant to be anti-Jewish and Malaysia was not seeking confrontation.