Kuala Lumpur: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad urged Iraqi insurgents yesterday to make the United States â€œpay a very high priceâ€ for its occupation of Iraq.
In his most provocative public remarks on the Iraq war yet, Mahathir said he wanted to â€œcongratulate the Iraqi resistanceâ€ for successfully turning public opinion against US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
â€œMake sure that the Americans will pay a very high price for their adventure,â€ Mahathir said at an international anti-war conference in Kuala Lumpur.
â€œUnfortunately, you may have to kill a lot of Americans. When the coffins go back, when the body bags are carried back to America, it will help the Americans to change their minds,â€ Mahathir said to loud applause from 1,500 activists.
Strong critic Mahathir, long known for his strident criticism of Western countries, said American soldiers will go to Iraq â€œand many of them are going to die. They are going to go back in their coffins.â€
â€œIf President Bush is willing to lead his army, but from the front, then by all means letâ€™s all go to war,â€ he said. â€œBut since heâ€™s not going to do that, I think we should strive with all our might to spread the new faith, the new belief that war is not an option, war is not a way of settling any dispute.â€
War crimes tribunal
Mahathir spoke after launching a tribunal that plans to hold trials based on complaints by Iraqis and Palestinians against world leaders including Bush, Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Israeli ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, which opened with a preliminary meeting, does not have the legal authority of an international organisation and cannot impose penalties, but its main aim is to condemn leaders in history books, Mahathir said.