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Malaysia PM Urges US to Resolve Mideast Conflict - 2002-06-11

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed is urging the United States to take a bigger role in resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Mahathir is in Geneva attending the annual meeting of the International Labor Organization, where he said the United States must help to turn the Middle East from violence to peace by coming up with a peace timetable.

He said acts of terror between Israel and the Palestinians will continue as long as there is no plan to get the two sides back to the negotiating table. "It will prolong these terrible acts of terror on both sides because obviously people do not know when they are going to resolve this problem because there is no plan, no agenda for this," he said. "I believe the United States has got a big role to play. It is the most powerful nation in the world. And obviously, if it decides to work towards ending this confrontation and fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians, a lot of things can be done because of the power and influence that it wields."

Malaysia is to host the world's largest gathering of Muslim states, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, next year in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr. Mahathir said rich nations fighting the war against terrorism should commit more resources to solving economic and social problems that win support for militant groups. He also says Malaysia has effectively fought terrorists seeking to overthrow the government, and he denies his country harbors terrorists linked to the al-Qaida network. "There are lots of people who say that Malaysia is a base for terrorism, etc., but we would like to find out from them what is their evidence," he said. "If they have any evidence, they should be telling us instead of making a lot stories about this."

After September 11, Malaysia arrested more than 60 Islamic militants with suspected links to al-Qaida and has provided intelligence about the terrorist network's activities throughout Southeast Asia.

But some human rights groups argue Mr. Mahathir is using the war on terrorism to restrict legitimate Islamic political opposition in Malaysia.