- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s new leader, in his first major policy-oriented speech since taking office, pledged yesterday to maintain his country’s tough stance on terrorism and to speak out against global injustice.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made no reference to claims by his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, that “Jews rule the world by proxy,” which touched off a storm of Western criticism in the final weeks of Mr. Mahathir’s 22-year rule.

In a wide-ranging address to a packed Parliament, Mr. Abdullah, 63, did not break new policy ground, but vowed to combat government corruption, expand economic prosperity and root out militancy.

“We cannot compromise when dealing with the threats posed by extremism, terrorism and militancy,” he told legislators and a national television audience. “Therefore, the government’s firmness in dealing with these threats must be fully supported to ensure the security and peace of our nation.”

Malaysia has detained without trial scores of suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al Qaeda-linked extremist network blamed for bomb attacks in Southeast Asia that killed hundreds of people. Malaysia also shared intelligence about suspected September 11 plotters with U.S. authorities.

Mr. Abdullah, who became Malaysia’s first new leader in a generation Friday when he succeeded Mr. Mahathir, also promised to continue making Malaysia’s voice heard in international politics and trade.

He devoted the first half of his speech to praising Mr. Mahathir, and introduced a motion to “record the highest gratitude and appreciation from all Malaysians.”

Mr. Mahathir, who stepped down Friday, earned a global reputation as a canny nation-builder and a fiercely defiant spokesman for his mostly-Muslim nation, Asia and the developing world.

Mr. Mahathir’s favorite targets were Western-dominated globalization and the way the U.S.-led war on terrorism is being fought. Mr. Mahathir spent the final two weeks of his rule at the center of a storm for claiming Jews rule the world.

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