Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Mahathir thanks Chirac for blocking summit declaration on Jewish remarks

AP AND REUTERS , KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has thanked French President Jacques Chirac for blocking a EU declaration condemning his comments last week that Jews "rule the world by proxy," news reports said yesterday.

Chirac, backed by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, stopped the EU from ending a summit on Friday with a harshly worded statement deploring Mahathir's speech, which also included suggestions that Jews get "others to fight and die for them."

A French diplomat, who asked not to be named, said while Chirac disagreed with Mahathir's strident views, he argued that an EU summit declaration "would not have been appropriate."

Malaysian newspapers said Mahathir had expressed his gratitude to Chirac for his "understanding" of the speech he made at the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim grouping, in Malaysia last Thursday.

Mahathir said he had feared Muslims would be more angered by the speech, which was also critical of Muslims.

"I never thought the Europeans would be against me," the New Sunday Times quoted him as saying. "I can't understand them. I'm glad that Chirac at least understands. I would like to thank him publicly."

Mahathir said that "anybody who reads the whole speech through will understand what I said," the Sunday Star newspaper reported.

Mahathir's comments caused a storm of controversy, with the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, Australia and Israel branding the remarks outrageous.

Meanwhile, Malaysian officials said yesterday widespread anger Mahathir's remarks was terrible, and insisted they were only an accurate reflection of the undeniable power of Jews worldwide.

"It's most unfortunate, the reaction that has come out is terrible," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said in an interview on Australian television.

"They [the Jews] are very, very influential and strong in many countries. You cannot deny the fact that the Jewish economic power is tremendous. Their lobby is tremendous. So what's wrong in saying that. You are not saying `Kill all the Jews.' You say, `Take the example of the Jews,' he said on Channel Nine's Sunday program.

"Arabs are also Semites. Whenever a Jew says that Semites only refer to Jews, then it becomes an accepted thing. So that's how powerful the Jewish lobby is -- the control of the media, by the Jewish community. But that should not create anti-feeling against them," Syed Hamid said.

He said Mahathir had intended to remind Muslims that if they wanted to be successful they must think, plan and not use aggression.

The Jews had "real power" because they had worked hard and successfully achieved knowledge and influence, he said.

"They have got a lot of special privileges. And yet we tend to ignore this," he said.

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