Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in an interview that his government had apprehended about 50 people in the past three years with links to a wider network of Islamic terrorism. He said his country did not have a domestic terror problem at the moment "but remains vigilant" and so far has been able to keep a lid on Malaysian members of such groups.
Speaking a few hours before meeting with President Bush on Monday, Abdullah, a former foreign minister who replaced Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister in October 2003, said his country was keen to help in the rebuilding of Iraq and to provide badly needed medical care.
A month before coming here, Abdullah said, he had instructed his Defense Ministry to look into preparing a corps of several hundred doctors and paramedics to assist in providing medical services to the Iraqi people. Although the team would be composed of soldiers, he said, their duties would be strictly medical.
Later Monday, he told guests at a dinner hosted by the US-ASEAN Business Council at the Willard InterContinental that it was time for the world to put aside misgivings about the war in Iraq, concerns he raised during a visit here two years ago. "What is important today is to see how we can move forward and rebuild confidence in one another," he said.
In the interview, Abdullah said he had come to Washington not just as the prime minister of his country but also as chairman of both the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the biggest conglomeration of Muslim states, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
He emphasized that the United States should demonstrate good faith in addressing what he called root causes of terrorism in the Middle East and the concerns of moderate Palestinians and Iraqis who are not yet drawn to extremist causes.
He said he worries about the perception gap between the Western and Muslim worlds. "If this feeling of mistrust and animosity becomes worse, it will have an impact on security for all of us. The best way is to have a dialogue," Abdullah said.
"We too must find the best way to address it," he added. "Education has a key role. Basically, we have to modernize the education of religion. It should be taught not to condone terrorism but to emphasize that seeking knowledge is compulsory."
Putting Faith in Consensus
President Ricardo Lagos of Chile told Washington Post editors and columnists on Monday that within 48 hours of an international consensus to send troops to keep the peace in Haiti, there was a Chilean force on the ground. Though his country opposed last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he said that when there is a multilateral consensus for taking decisive action in a world crisis, Chile is more than ready to join in.
He recalled telling colleagues that Chilean troops had to be in Haiti because it was "in our region." He said that for the first time, there were Latin American troops in Haiti, with a Brazilian general in charge of the U.N.-mandated force. "That is a new reality," he added. "The military force has to obey a United Nations command."
Chile-U.S. relations cooled considerably over Santiago's objection to military action in Iraq without full U.N. backing. There should also be international consensus in decision-making about the environment and other global concerns, Lagos said.
"In a global world, unless you have rules, you are lost. . . . I want to have rules, multilateral policy. That is what small countries like ours need," he said.
Lagos said "a tremendous challenge" remains in Haiti. He noted that the Inter-American Development Bank still has $400 million it is unable to spend in Haiti because it has no counterpart there.
Despite persistent reports of lawlessness outside Haiti's major cities, Lagos said the task was not just to improve security but to restore basic government services. "If 9 million Haitians do not perceive a change in their lives and if the garbage is still on the streets, they are going to see foreign army troops as occupiers," he said.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Sabah was worried. He'd invited Mormon members of Congress such as Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) and the top brass of Brigham Young University to a dinner last Wednesday. But he wondered whether they'd show up, given that the same night there was a new round in the TV quiz show "Jeopardy" in which Ken Jennings, a Mormon from Utah, was holding on as champion.
But show up they did. The gathering launched the university's translation of two works by the Muslim physician and philosopher Avicenna as part of BYU's Islamic Translation Series. Six classical texts of Islamic thought have already been rendered in English under the program.
Ali Shamlan, director general of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, announced that his organization would go into partnership with BYU so that these texts "will challenge and delight future generations of students and scholars." Shamlan added: "There's a saying that 'something is always lost in translation.' I like to think that something can be gained as well."