April 1, 2002

Mahathir: Israelis and Palestinians 'must be stopped'

Maria Ressa, CNN Correspondent

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- In the midst of a U.S.-led war on terrorism and the declaration that Israel is at war with terrorism, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has condemned terrorism and said all attacks against civilians must be considered acts of terrorism.
"Whether the attackers are acting on their own or on the orders of their government; whether they are regulars or irregulars, if the attack is against civilians then they must be considered terrorists," Mohamad said after opening a three-day meeting of Islamic nations.
The Malaysian leader provided the keynote address for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) -- consisting of 57 Muslim nations, calling both the Israelis and Palestinians terrorists.
The meeting -- originally called to define terrorism and prevent "Muslim bashing" in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks -- was in danger of being overrun by the developing conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11; the human bomb attacks by Palestinians and the Tamil Tigers; the attacks against civilians by Israeli forces; the killings of Bosnian Muslims and others," Mahathir declared, "must be considered as acts of terror and the perpetrators must be condemned as terrorists and anyone supporting them must be considered as terrorists."
Speaking with reporters after his address, Mahathir said we "must stop both the Palestinians and Israelis from mutual massacre."
Israeli forces have had Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pinned inside his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah since late last week following a Passover attack by a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Through Sunday, there had been five suicide attacks against Israeli targets in as many days.
In a televised address to his nation Sunday, Sharon declared his embattled nation was now in a war imposed on Israel. He blamed Arafat for the continuing violence, who he said is the "head of a coalition of terrorism" and "the enemy of Israel and the enemy of the free world."
Meanwhile, Arafat remained pinned inside his Ramallah headquarters as he has been since Friday, when Israeli tanks began destroying buildings in the compound.
He remained defiant, telling CNN's Michael Holmes Sunday he doesn't care whether he dies.
Arriving ahead of the the start of the OIC Sunday was Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He has asked for Islamic countries to put sanctions on Israel.
Of the 57 IOC member nations, 51 out of 57 member nations are attending the three-day conference.