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'World War Has Begun'; Malaysia's Mahathir Assails U.S. at Davos Opening
Published on Friday, January 24, 2003 by Reuters
'World War Has Begun'
Malaysia's Mahathir Assails U.S. at Davos Opening
by Paul Taylor
 

DAVOS, Switzerland - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the United States on Thursday that "out-terrorising the terrorists will not work" and forecast a long period of war driven by hatred, revenge and greed.

His warning jolted the opening session of the annual World Economic Forum of business and political leaders in Davos, at which Switzerland's president urged Washington not to launch a war against Iraq without United Nations authorisation.

Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's warning jolted the opening session of the annual World Economic Forum
The mood at this year's gathering of the global economic and political elite was subdued by the triple shadow of economic uncertainty, corporate scandals and fear of a looming war.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to address the forum on Sunday amid a deepening rift between the Bush administration and key European and Middle Eastern allies over the justification for using force against Baghdad.

Mahathir, a veteran Asian leader, accused the West of seeking to impose its brand of capitalist democracy by force and starving or bombing those who did not accept that model.

"It is blasphemy to say anything against democracy. If you do, if you resist, then you'll be considered a heretic and starved to death or bombed out of existence," he said.

He suggested that suicide bombers and hijackers such as those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, were driven by poverty and despair.

"Out-terrorising the terrorists will not work, but removing the causes for terrorism will," he said.

"The worm finally turned. The weak have now hit back in the only way they can. Groping for the enemy, the strong hits out blindly in every direction, in every part of the world. No one is free. Fear rules the world.

"Sanity has deserted both sides. Just as, in the stone age, the man with the biggest club ruled, in our modern and sophisticated global village the country with the biggest killing power rules," Mahathir said.

President George W. Bush's campaign against an "Axis of Evil" grouping Iraq, Iran and North Korea, was doomed to fail because it had the wrong target, he added.

BUILDING TRUST

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin spelled out the majority view in much of Western Europe when he said war in Iraq was not inevitable and would have dangerous, destabilising consequences for the Middle East, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Force must not be used before the matter has been brought before the United Nations Security Council," he said.

"The use of force can only be the last resort after all other means of persuasion have been exhausted."

The United States has expressed irritation at the resistance of key European allies France and Germany to what they see as a rush to war while U.N. inspectors are asking for more time to try to disarm Iraq peacefully.

But former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group think-tank, said he did not believe war on Iraq was inevitable.

Military action might yet be averted because of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's survival instinct in the face of a U.S. and British military build-up, international pressure on Washington not to act unilaterally, and domestic unease about war in the United States, he said.

"I am naive enough to believe that war is avoidable," he said.

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