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Malaysian PM Criticizes US, Muslim Leaders' Terrorism Policies - 2004-06-01

The host of an Asia-Pacific security conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, says the United States must shoulder blame with Muslim extremists for a sharp increase in terrorism.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had harsh words for American and Muslim leaders during his keynote address at a regional security roundtable in Kuala Lumpur.

First he blamed America's anti-terrorism policies since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States for fueling radicalism in the world and making it less safe.

Mr. Abdullah, who chairs the Organization of Islamic Conference, then singled out U.S. policy in the Middle East. He criticized the decision by the United States to invade Iraq without U.N. approval and its handling of the country's violent transition to self-government. "Only the United Nations can decide what measures can be taken to maintain international peace," he said. "No nation or coalition of nations may take this right."

The Malaysian leader says Washington has opened a Pandora's box of troubles in Iraq and is unwilling to give the United Nations or the Iraqi people meaningful input for a stable future. He warned that incidents such as abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu-Ghraib by U.S. soldiers could foment more terrorism by Muslim radicals.

Mr. Abdullah says the United States had not done enough to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, another major source of angry Islamic extremism.

But Mr. Abdullah balanced his criticism of the United States with an equally sharp critique of Muslim societies. The prime minister says many Muslim countries need to confront extremism and root out violent radicals from religious schools.

Malaysia is a moderate, mostly Muslim country and an ally in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism, despite its frequent criticism of Washington.

Australian political analyst Bill Case of Griffith University, says Malaysia faces a difficult task of balancing domestic political pressure from hard-line Muslims with national security interests.

But Professor Case says that despite the rhetoric, Malaysia is committed to strengthening its ties with the United States.

"Malaysia's value system involves economic prosperity and they recognize, they need a positive relationship with the United States," he said. The Asia-Pacific security dialogue in Malaysia is the first in a series of meetings this month. Later this week, defense ministers from the region will meet in Singapore. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to attend.