Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad says Muslim nations should posses nuclear weapons to deter potential enemies from attacking them.

Speaking at a seminar in the Pakistani capital on Friday, the former leader of Malaysia sharply criticized the United States and Israel for actions that he said were against Islam and Muslims.

Mahathir Mohamad said Islam is against terrorist and suicide attacks, but that it allows Muslims to do all they can to defend themselves.

"They are enjoined to defend their Muslim society," he said.  "They should have the tanks, warplanes, warships, guns and missiles. Yes, they need to have nuclear weapons, too, because only with the possession of such would their enemies be deterred from attacking them."

The 81-year-old former Malaysian prime minister received warm applause for his comments from the audience in Pakistan, the only Islamic nation to have developed nuclear weapons.

Mahathir Mohamad said Muslim nations could only be secure if they possessed nuclear weapons, although he said the best situation would be a world in which no countries possess them.

He said the U.S.-led war against terrorism has turned into a war against Islam and Muslims, because it is targeting countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Bush says the United States is at war against extremists, bound by ideology, who are willing to use terror to achieve their objectives. He says U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is to help those fledgling democracies withstand terrorist threats.

In his speech on Friday, Mahathir Mohamad also repeated a statement he made three years ago in which he spoke of a Jewish conspiracy in the United States and suggested that Jews ruled the world by proxy.  The Malaysian leader's statement drew strong condemnation from Western countries.

The former Malaysian prime minister retired in 2003, after 22 years in power. But he remains highly respected and influential throughout the Muslim world.