Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian PM vows Muslim force for Iraq

MEETING WITH BUSH Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned that if Iraq were to fail, the US would pay a price for inflicting misery on Iraqis without providing any benefit


Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said his country was ready to mobilize an international Muslim force to rehabilitate war-torn Iraq.

"We are prepared to rally support among the Organisation of the Islamic Conference [OIC] to rebuild Iraq and strengthen its institutions of governance and its economic system," Abdullah said late Monday after talks with US President George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

Abdullah, chairman of the 57-member OIC, said the world would risk another failure in nation-building if Iraq was left in the cold at this juncture, rendering the region politically unstable and economically stagnant.

"We should no longer stand on the sidelines and merely watch Iraq struggle to find its feet after years of dictatorship and a recent invasion," he said at a dinner in Washington hosted by the US-ASEAN Business Council.

Malaysia, for its part, was ready to send a "sizeable" medical team to Iraq and participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, Abdullah said.

He warned that if the reconstruction of Iraq failed, the entire Muslim world would blame the US-led invasion for setting off a chain of events that led to sustained misery for ordinary Iraqis and a clash between the West and the Muslim world.

Abdullah pointed out that the Muslim world still needed some demonstration of good faith from the US in addressing the root causes of terrorism, in particular the unresolved question of Palestine.

He said he suggested and Bush agreed that a "capacity-building" program be undertaken in poor Muslim countries as part of efforts to demonstrate such good faith.

Bush said: "We talked about Iraq, and I told him I was pleased with the progress being made in Iraq, and the prime minister had some helpful suggestions.

"So, all in all, it's been a very constructive meeting," Bush said.

Abdullah, who also heads the 116-nation Non-Aligned Movement of developing states, called for bridging "the great divide" between the Muslim world and the West, saying efforts should go beyond "elite diplomacy."

He declared that bilateral ties between Malaysia and the US were "very strong" despite Kuala Lumpur's opposition to the war in Iraq.

"You cannot judge our bilateral relations simply on the basis of what you hear, that we may have some differences on Iraq or on Palestine," he said.

"The foundation of the bilateral relations has remained strong all the time," he said.

This is the first visit to the US by Abdullah, who took over last October from retiring premier Mahathir Mohamad, a vociferous critic of Bush's foreign policies.

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