PM: Bush the biggest liar

Sunday, October 26 2003
By Firdaus Abdullah

PETALING JAYA, Oct 25: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said President George W. Bush’s assertion that he rebuked him at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit in Bangkok is the “biggest lie of all”.
The Prime Minister said if Bush had in fact rebuked him, he would have reacted in his normal manner and returned the rebuke.
"I'm told now that Bush said he rebuked me," he said at a Press conference on his return from visits to Indonesia, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea.
"That is the biggest lie of all, because all he said was ‘I regret that I had strong words, said strong words against you'.
"This is what I remember. If he had rebuked me, I'm quite sure I'd have reacted in my normal way — I would have rebuked him also." Bush had made a statement during his visit to Indonesia on Wednesday (after attending the Apec Summit) that he rebuked Dr Mahathir for his remarks about Jews when they met at the Apec meeting.
"But then, it is not strange because I'm told that his officers told the Press that he rebuked me and now, of course, he must support his officers. This is very common.
"If you can tell a lie about the existence of weapons of mass destruction and go to war because of it, I'm not surprised if he is prepared to lie about what he said to me.
"In any case, that is something of minor importance. What is important is that I was able to give my views at the Apec meeting on the need to restructure the international financial regime as well as my views on the World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun (Mexico)." Last Tuesday, while still in Bangkok, Dr Mahathir had dismissed as untrue reports quoting US officials that he was rebuked by Bush. The very next day, Bush had told the media in Indonesia that he had indeed rebuked Dr Mahathir.
"I don't know how people can come to that conclusion because I know for a fact that nobody heard what was said," Dr Mahathir said in Bangkok.
"He did pull me aside to explain why he made such a strong statement against me. I told him I understood. That was all." In his speech at the opening of the OIC Summit, Dr Mahathir was critical of Muslims and Jews for the state of the world today, but his speech was twisted and portrayed as being anti-Semitic, drawing some harsh response from Jewish groups and governments which depended on their support.

October 22, 2003

‘Bush did not rebuke me’

By Syed Nadzri and Kamarul Yunus in Bangkok

BANGKOK, Oct 21: PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has dismissed as untrue reports that he was pulled aside and rebuked by US President George W. Bush during Monday’s opening session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit.
On the contrary, Bush was nice to him and they were walking practically hand in hand in one instance, he said at a Press conference at the end of the summit yesterday.
He also said that on the personal level, he had no quarrel with Bush.
The 45-minute Press conference, the only one by a head of government to be held after the closing briefing by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was well attended by the international media who applauded when he finished.
Dr Mahathir went straight for the issue in his opening remarks, seeking to clarify news reports quoting a US spokesman who said he was pulled aside in between meetings and told off by Bush over his speech at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Summit in Putrajaya last week.
"I don't know how people can come to that conclusion because I know for a fact that nobody heard what was said to me. But I would like to explain that he did pull me aside in order to explain to me why he made such a strong statement against me. And I told him I understood. That was all. There was nothing more than that," he said.
In his speech at the opening of the OIC Summit, Dr Mahathir was critical of Muslims and Jews for the state of the world today, but it was seen by some as anti-Semitic, drawing some harsh responses, including from US spokesmen.
Asked by a Financial Times reporter whether this means that Americans are saying one thing in private and a different thing in public since the impression given to journalists by the spokesman was that Bush was very critical of Dr Mahathir in that conversation, the Prime Minister said it was certain that Bush did not rebuke him.
"All he said was that ‘I regret having to have to use strong words against you'. I don't know whether his assistant heard it or not, but I would ask him to ask President Bush again exactly what he said. But unless my hearing is very bad and his (the spokesman's) very good that he could hear him very well, I think he did not rebuke me at all.
"After that we were walking practically hand in hand. So how can you say a person is rebuking another person if our relations after that were all that good.
"He came to my wife to greet her, he spoke to me and I spoke to him like normal participants."
Asked by the same reporter about his personal impression of Bush, Dr Mahathir said he did not like to say anything about other people.
"I might sound offensive, so I don't want to reply to that question." Asked whether his remarks about the Jews would hurt ties within Apec since some member countries had a big Jewish community, Dr Mahathir said they would not.
"I explained to them I cannot very well criticise Muslim countries without pointing out the mistakes and wrong acts performed by the Jews. I didn't see anybody opposing my views. Nobody said anything against me. Of course, the Press said it, but not the participants."
Another question by a reporter from the Boston Globe was related to US relations with the Muslim world, regarded as having reached its lowest point, and what needed to be done henceforth.
The Prime Minister said the US policies had changed much over the years as it was now more concerned about imposing sanctions than giving aid and sending peace corps to countries.
"It applies sanctions, sometimes threatening military action on grounds not proven. You will dispute this, of course, but that is my impression," he said, adding that the US should try to understand problems faced by governments in administering their countries.
Another question touched on why his relationship with successive Australian Prime Ministers was bad.
"It's not because of me. There is a fondness among leaders in Australia to make nasty comments like calling me recalcitrant. John Howard did the same thing — repeatedly.
"He even cast aspersions on our judiciary as if we do not understand law," he said, adding that Malaysia did not have any history of killing its aborigines.
He said those who criticised others should look at their own backyard and temper it with some humility.
Asked by another American journalist about the legacy of a modern developed Malaysia he was leaving behind and whether his successor would be as outspoken and controversial, Dr Mahathir said all the policy decisions of the Government were made collectively by the Cabinet.
"This Cabinet has a mind of its own and it will continue to apply that method long after I am gone. Besides I would like to point out that my policy was no different from that of the first Prime Minister. I merely embellished that."
On his reflections of Apec and the various meetings he had attended, Dr Mahathir, who is retiring soon, said: "(Canadian Prime Minister) Jean Chretien, who is also stepping down soon, and I were asked to say a few words during lunch just now and I reminded them that I was the recalcitrant who did not attend the first summit (in Seattle in 1993).
"Apec has proven quite useful to us and, of course, we have formed good relations with many countries, including with President Bush, and I must admit that he even quoted me when he spoke during one of the sessions.
"On a personal basis, we have no quarrel and that is a very good thing about Apec. We get to know a lot of people."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Threats in U.S. follow Mahathir's words

The Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysian diplomatic missions in the United States have increased security measures after receiving threats of reprisals for Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad's recent comments that "Jews rule the world," government officials said Wednesday.
One Washington-based Malaysian diplomat flew back to Kuala Lumpur last weekend as a "precautionary measure" after the embassy in the U.S. capital received threats over the phone and via e-mails about Mahathir's comments, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Malaysia's two other diplomatic posts in the United States also received threats.
"Malaysians missions in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have received about 300 phone calls and e-mails since Friday," the official said. "Many lauded the prime minister's speech but the missions also received some threats of reprisals."
A second official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the three Malaysian missions had received threats "to harm Malaysians in general," but said that the threats were "not specific."
The embassy in Washington has reported the threats to the police, and security at all three Malaysian missions had been upgraded, the officials said, without elaborating.
Mahathir, who often makes stinging statements against globalization and U.S. policy in the Middle East, triggered an uproar last week when he said at a summit of Islamic countries in Malaysia that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."
The comments were condemned by the European Union, Australia and the United States. President George W. Bush of the United States pulled Mahathir aside at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand on Monday to criticize the remarks as wrong and divisive, a White House spokesman said.
Mahathir, 77, who will step down next week after 22 years in power, was unrepentant. He said his remarks had been taken out of context, but added in an interview published Tuesday that the strong reaction to his speech showed that Jews "control the world."
A Malaysian official said Wednesday that Western media coverage of Mahathir's comments was aimed at ridiculing him and appeasing angry Jews.
On a visit to Indonesia on Wednesday, Mahathir made a speech accusing the "great exponents of democracy" of "terrorizing the world" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Mahathir did not name any country, but his comments appeared to be aimed at the United States and Israel.
"We see states launching vicious, massive retaliation, not just to kill suspected terrorists but his family, his home, his village and his town," Mahathir said.
"It would be ridiculous to think that such attacks do not terrorize the innocent," he continued. "In fact the terror is even greater, it is systematic and executed with heavy weapons in the hands of trained soldiers."