Sunday August 10, 2003

Malaysia's Mahathir Blames Weapon Sellers for Wars

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Weapon sales by rich countries were responsible for the proliferation of wars, said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The outspoken veteran leader said wars were being waged as an excuse to try out new weapons.
"If there is no war then all these very expensive weapons would be a waste," Mahathir told a peace conference in the Malaysian capital.
"Off and on a fairly major war would be launched deliberately for no very good reason. And the weapons are gleefully used in these real life tests."
Mahathir, a fierce critic of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, accused "high pressure arms salesmen" of forcing poor nations to buy weapons.
"To encourage (poor countries to buy), it was pointed out that their neighbors have already bought or are about to buy these weapons," he said.
The 77-year old, who steps down in October after 22 years at the helm, earned President Bush's praise a year ago for his help in the war against terror and has clamped down on Islamic radicals in mainly Muslim Malaysia.
But Mahathir raised the ire of Washington earlier this year with his stinging criticism of U.S. foreign policy.
The veteran leader remained unflinching in his rebuke of the United States Saturday.
"While frustrated and angry young people crashed their aircrafts into buildings, killing a few thousand innocent people, the retaliation that this triggered is no less brutal, killing innumerable innocent people, unconnected with Sept 11," Mahathir said.
Although not specific data was immediately available, Malaysia has boosted defense spending in recent years, allotting billions of dollars on new U.S. and Russian jet fighters, submarines and Polish tanks among others.
Last Tuesday Malaysia signed a $900 million deal to buy 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKs from Russia.