- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

BANGKOK — President Bush yesterday told Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that his recent statement that Jews rule the world is “wrong and divisive,” the White House said.

At an Islamic summit last week in Malaysia, Mr. Mahathir said: “The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule this world by proxy.”

Mr. Mahathir, an outspoken Asian leader, added that 1.3 billion Muslims could not be defeated by a few million Jews.

The comments displeased Mr. Bush, who repeatedly has said that Islam is a religion of peace.

Face to face yesterday with Mr. Mahathir at an Asian economic summit in Bangkok, Mr. Bush said the comment “stands squarely against what I believe in,” according to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Word of the president’s direct rebuke came amid condemnation by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who called Mr. Mahathir’s words “reprehensible.”

“Everybody thinks that the comments were hateful, they were outrageous,” she said. “The key for everybody is to step back and give no cover to people who kill because they want to kill. It is not a matter of the Muslim faith, it’s a perversion of the Muslim faith.”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell took issue with Mr. Mahathir’s assertion that his comments were taken out of context.

Mr. Powell “made the point that he had read the entire speech, he said the remarks that everybody had condemned were, in fact, made twice in the speech and that there was also a tone of struggling or fighting against Jews throughout the speech, which was part of the problem,” an administration official said.

French President Jacques Chirac wrote to Mr. Mahathir on Sunday to tell him that his views would be condemned by all those who remembered the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people.

But Mr. Chirac’s condemnation came only after a barrage of criticism from Israel, which accused him of having blocked a European Union condemnation of Mr. Mahathir’s comments.

That action had drawn praise from Mr. Mahathir, who expressed gratitude to Mr. Chirac for “understanding” the speech.

“I’m glad that Chirac at least understands. I would like to thank him publicly,” Mr. Mahathir had said.

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