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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 16:04 GMT
Malaysia scolds US over Iraq
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysia has taken over the NAM's rotating presidency
The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has denounced US policy on Iraq, warning that a US-led attack would be seen as a "war against Muslims".

Malaysia is hosting a summit of developing nations in the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is set to adopt a declaration condemning war with Iraq.

NAM leaders are expected to call for Iraq to comply with UN resolutions to disarm, while making clear their opposition to a US-led war on Iraq at the two-day summit opening in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

Mahathir accused the United States of double standards in its contrasting attitudes towards North Korea and Iraq.

"The fact that North Korea's open admission that it has weapons of mass destruction has only met with mild admonishment by the West seems to prove that indeed it is a war against Muslims," he declared.

"The attack against Iraq will simply anger more Muslims."

It is also thought likely that the draft declaration will include an explicit rejection of Washington's now infamous expression "the axis of evil", a reference to Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Finding a voice

The member countries mostly have little influence by themselves, but hope to make their views heard collectively.

Together they account for more than 50% of the world's population and hold a large number of seats on the UN General Assembly.

Six are also members of the 15-seat Security Council, which the US hopes will approve military action against Iraq.

A draft declaration prepared by foreign ministers says Iraq - itself a member of the NAM - must "actively comply" with the UN.

However, it also makes clear it favours "non-use" of force to resolve the dispute.

World conflicts

A statement supporting the Palestinians has also been agreed, which reportedly condemns Israel's policy of allowing settlers to establish themselves in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasser al-Qedwa, says the NAM will issue a statement that calls for Israelis accused of alleged war crimes in occupied Palestinian territory to be brought to trial.

Mr al-Qedwa said the statement will also urge the non-aligned nations to take necessary measures to end the alleged war crimes.

The summit is also expected to ask member state North Korea to rethink its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In return, members will note North Korea's complaints of US belligerence.

Among the world leaders expected at the summit are the Cuban President Fidel Castro, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf.

All are expected at an economic conference on the fringes of the main summit.

The BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur says trade looks set to be the issue on which NAM will find it easiest to agree.

Its new leader, Malaysia, wants the organisation to stick up for the small and the developing nations of the south in negotiations with the big economies of the west.





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SEE ALSO:
Developing world split over Iraq
22 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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