Dr. Mahathir's diagnosis of ailing UN
NEW YORK-- As expected, Malaysia's outspoken Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was the only world leader who had the courage to challenge the credibility of the UN, condemn the selective use of the veto power in the Security Council, and warn the world body against the resurgence of imperialism and "puppet regimes".

Mahathir, who earlier this year called for the resignation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for failing to assert himself during the crisis that led to the US invasion of Iraq, told the General Assembly last week that the UN's organs had been "cut out, dissected and reshaped so they may perform the way the puppet masters want."

A physician by profession, Mahathir's medical metaphor really cut to the heart of the political problem facing the world body. "And this august institution, the United Nations in which we had pinned so much hope, despite the safeguards supposed to be provided by the Permanent Five, this organisation is today collapsing on its clay feet, helpless to protect the weak and the poor," he told the 58th session of the General Assembly attended by over 60 world leaders.

In what was his final address to the UN before he steps down as Malaysia's prime minister at the end of October, Mahathir was his usual self hammering at the political inequities of a world -- and a world body -- dominated by the United States.

Without naming names, he said: "The unipolar world dominated by a democratic nation is leading the world to economic chaos, political anarchy, uncertainty and fear."
After his vibrant address to the General Assembly, every other speech sounded as dull as a laundry list for supermarket shopping.

The annual parade of world leaders took added significance this year because the General Assembly was meeting six months after an illegal war against Iraq launched in defiance of the world body. The war, in which over 300 US soldiers have died so far, is now heading towards a military catastrophe for the Americans.

President George W. Bush, who came to the UN last week seeking 15,000 to 20,000 foreign troops for a new multinational peacekeeping force in Iraq, left for Washington virtually empty-handed. Bush was also rebuffed in his quest for billions and billions of dollars in Western aid for the reconstruction of the war-devastated country.

The American President met with several visiting heads of state -- including French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- who were in New York for the annual General Assembly sessions.

With France announcing its intention not to exercise its veto against a proposed US-sponsored resolution for a new military force, Washington is trying to muster the 30,000-40,000 foreign troops it desperately needs to stabilise a war-devastated Iraq heading towards political and military chaos.

The proposed resolution, which is expected to go before the Security Council early October, seeks not only troops from American friends and allies around the world but also funds for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The proposed UN-mandated force is expected to relieve the pressure on the besieged 140,000-strong US military force in Iraq whose troops are dying at an average of about one per day.

Both Germany and France have ruled out any troops for the new force. Instead, they are insisting on the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty and a greater political role for the UN in Iraq.

India has said its military is pre-occupied with "cross-border terrorism" on the Pakistan border and is no position to provide the 18,000 troops requested by the US. Immediately after his meeting with Bush, Musharraf told reporters that he needs to see the "final shape" of the US resolution before he decides to respond to the American request for about 10,000-12,000 Pakistani troops.

"We have international obligations and we have domestic constraints," he said. "President Bush absolutely understands this." Musharraf also said "the domestic environment in Pakistan is totally opposed to sending troops to Iraq."

However, any decision to send Pakistani troops will depend primarily on two factors: firstly, whether the resolution will also call on Muslim nations to send troops to Iraq, and secondly, whether there is a desire on the part of the people of Iraq for a multinational force. "We cannot be seen as being an extension of the military occupation of Iraq," Musharraf addedLast week Edward Kennedy, a senior US senator, raised a political storm in Washington when he accused the Bush administration of failing to account for nearly half the $3.9 billion Washington is apparently spending on the military in Iraq every month.

"My belief is that this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops," he said. He also said the so called "imminent threat" to the United States from Iraq was "made up in Texas (Bush's hometown), announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud."

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