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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 12:40 GMT
Malaysian PM condemns Iraq war
Dr Mahathir
Dr Mahathir said the UN was now 'meaningless'
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has condemned the US-led war on Iraq, calling it the action of a "cowardly and imperialist" bully.

Dr Mahathir said Washington's decision to sideline the United Nations in its desire to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had undermined world order and rendered both the UN and international law meaningless.

Correspondents say the US will be furious at Dr Mahathir's criticism. Only last year President George W Bush praised him as an ally in the international war on terrorism.

Dr Mahathir's comments came as protests against the war continued around the Asia-Pacific region.

Demonstrators took to the streets in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Vietnam over the weekend, and on Monday hundreds of anti-war protesters tried to storm the Australian parliament building.

'Black day in history'

Speaking at a debate in the Malaysian parliament on Monday, Dr Mahathir said military action in Iraq would lead to a system of dictatorship through puppet governments.

"It is a black day in history when a superpower with its allies attacks a country incapable of defending itself, much less threatening another country," Dr Mahathir said.

Demonstrators from the Walk Against the War Coalition listen to speeches during a peace rally in Sydney
Anti-war protests have taken place in Australia
While the conflict was not a war between Christians and Muslims, he said, the US action was likely to lead to the spread of international terrorism.

"The world will not be safe. People will live in perpetual fear," he warned.

The US has also warned of possible retaliation to the war in Iraq.

On Sunday American citizens were advised to leave Indonesia due to what the US said was "credible information that extremist elements may be planning additional attacks" in response to the conflict.

But Indonesia has insisted that recent warnings by Western governments in their travel advisories gave a false impression of the terrorism threat.

"We are not going to doubt their obligations to protect their nationals," said foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natelagawa. "But we are concerned that the ... warnings give a skewed impression of what is really going on here."

Protests continue

Despite the conflict having started, anti-war protesters continued over the week end.

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the US embassy was again the focus of anger, with thousands of people congregating in protest against the war.

About 2,000 children held a rally in the Muslim stronghold of Pekalongan in central Java, while another 150 people protested in front of the US consulate on the island of Bali.

There were large-scale protests in many major Australian cities over the weekend, and on Monday hundreds of people tried to storm the parliament building.

Inside the building, Prime Minister John Howard was repeatedly heckled from the public gallery.

Mr Howard has been one of America's staunchest allies in its stance against Baghdad, and 2,000 Australian troops are participating in the US-led war.

But the prime minister has faced stiff opposition from the Australian public, many of whom are against the conflict.

Opinion polls are, however, swinging in Mr Howard's favour.

A poll commissioned last week found that 47% of respondents were against military action compared to 70% the previous week.

Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysian Foreign Minister
"We have no quarrel with the United States. But we are quarrelling with the war."


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