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Malaysian Prime Minister Accuses US of Trying to Dominate World - 2003-06-19

Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused the United States of using the September 11 terrorist attacks as an excuse for Western countries to dominate the world. Asia's longest serving leader made the remark in a speech to the annual meeting of his United Malays National Organization.

Addressing for the last time the opening of the annual general assembly of the ruling United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, Prime Minister Mahathir attacked Western nations, accusing them of "war mongering" and indiscriminate attacks against Muslims.

While the prime minister has been a staunch ally of the United States in the war against terror, he has been a very outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.

The 77-year-old leader says the history of Europe, America, and Australia was one of never-ending wars to enlarge their territory and gain greater power - and terrorism has rekindled what he called "violent ways."

Zainudin Afandi, a member of the UMNO general assembly, said Mr. Mahathir warned during his speech that the West wanted to rule the world. "He also spent quite at length in his opening speech attacking the Europeans whom he said have demonstrated a desire to return to their fierce old ways in their efforts to dominate the world," said Mr. Zainudin.

But Prime Minister Mahathir also had tough words for his own ruling party - saying it risked becoming politically irrelevant if members continued fight for personal power in the next government. Mr. Zainudin says Mr. Mahathir told UMNO members to put aside their differences for the sake of unity.

"He warned that if the party is weak, the country will be at the mercy of the Western powers, which are bent on regime change to replace what they see as the dictatorial regime," said Mr. Zainudin.

He warned that Western calls for regime changes to democracy could one day be targeted at Malaysia - which would suffer under Western cultural values - which he described as hedonistic, greedy and sexually base.

Mr. Mahathir said that UMNO was the only party that could keep Malaysia safe from both external and internal threats.

Malaysia's main opposition group is the fundamentalist Islamic party PAS, which wants to create an Islamic state within Malaysia. Although the party made gains during the last elections in 1999, its popularity has waned since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

The outspoken Mahathir has argued that the rule of law and Islam are compatible and there is no need to create a religious government.

As Asia's longest serving leader, Mr. Mahathir will hand over the reigns in October to his anointed successor, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The more than 2,200 delegates will debate policy over the next three days before Mr. Mahathir closes the assembly on Saturday with a farewell speech.