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US Lawmakers Push for Sanctions Against Malaysia Over PM Remarks About Jews - 2003-10-27

The U.S. Senate Monday approved restrictions on some U.S aid to Malaysia in response to comments made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that are seen as anti-Semitic.

The Senate agreed to withhold $1.2 million in U.S. military aid to Malaysia until Secretary of State Colin Powell certifies that the country supports and promotes religious freedom, including tolerance for people of the Jewish faith.

The restriction could be waived for reasons of national security.

The legislation, attached to a foreign aid bill, was prompted by comments made by Prime Minister Mahathir earlier this month that have received international condemnation. At an Organization of Islamic Conference meeting in Malaysia, the Prime Minister said Jews rule the world by proxy and get others to fight and die for them.

"What could be more outrageous in 2003 than for the prime minister of any country to make such unbelievably erroneous statements?," asked Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican from the state of Kentucky. "They are dangerously wrong and they play directly into the hands of radical Islamic extremists throughout the region."

The House of Representatives passed the foreign aid bill in July, so it does not contain the restrictions on aid to Malaysia. Once the Senate passes its version of the legislation, differences will have to be resolved before a final bill is sent to President Bush for his signature.

Mr. Mahathir, who has ruled Malaysia for more than two decades, steps down as prime minister on Friday.