Mahathir slated the US-led war in Iraq, but supports the fight against terror
The Malaysian prime minister has accused rich nations of fuelling terrorism by hawking their weapons to poor countries and waging wars "at the slightest excuse".
Mahathir Mohamad said: "Unable to win a conventional war, the weak have resorted to terror attacks."
"Governments may not approve of this, but there is no way the governments can discipline their angry and frustrated people," he told a peace conference in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Dr Mohamad said developing nations were under huge pressure from rich countries to buy weapons even as the West criticised them for doing so.
"If there is no war then all these very expensive weapons
would be a waste," he said.
He also condemned Islamic terrorist groups saying Muslims can only fight in self-defence but "many Muslims invoke Islam when they commit un-Islamic acts".
The BBC's Jonathan Kent, in Kuala Lumpur, said Malaysia seems to have fallen into the trap of buying arms as last week it signed a $900m deal with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin to buy fighter jets.
In the last year it has also signed up three French submarines at the cost of around $1bn and has agreed to buy tanks from Poland.
Dr Mahathir said global peace would not be achieved if powerful countries continued to act unilaterally, ignoring the United Nations.
"Peace is possible if we make exceptions for no-one in terms of
submission to the only international authority that we have, the
United Nations," he said.
Dr Mahathir was also scathing about US foreign policy.
"While frustrated and angry young people crashed their
aircrafts into buildings, killing a few thousand innocent
people, the retaliation that this triggered is no less brutal,
killing innumerable innocent people, unconnected with 11 September," he said.
He called for rich countries to be taxed to help poorer nations develop, thus reducing the threat of war and terrorism.
The 77-year old, a fierce critic of the US-led war against Iraq, is to step down in October after more than 20 years at the helm.