Malaysia says rich are preoccupied with war on terrorism, should do more to help poor

Malaysia on Friday accused rich countries of being "preoccupied" with the war on terrorism, saying it had detracted from efforts to help the poorest countries in Asia and Africa alleviate poverty and spur development.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged leaders of the two continents to tighten their solidarity in a world where "multilateralism is under threat" and technological advancement and globalization had done little to eradicate poverty.

"Furthermore the current preoccupation of the rich countries with counter terrorism has diverted much valuable resources from the development process," Abdullah said at a summit of Asian-African leaders in Jakarta.

Malaysia is chairman of the Non Aligned Movement, a grouping of 116 countries formed to steer the middle path during the cold war between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Abdullah, seen in the United States as a moderate Muslim leader who supports the global war on terrorism, did not single out Washington in his speech. However Malaysia criticized the U.S. led-occupation of Iraq and the attack on Afghanistan. Malaysia however has arrested scores of suspected members of the al-Qaida linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror organization.

In his speech on Friday, Abdullah also said developing countries should be allowed to have "unimpeded access" to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, remarks seen as a tacit backing for Iran in its ongoing spat with the United States which has voiced concern over the Islamic country's nuclear program.

France, Britain and Germany have been negotiating with Iran, seeking guarantees it won't use its nuclear program to make weapons, as Washington suspects. Tehran insists the program, kept secret for two decades, is only for peaceful purposes.

Abdullah urged Asian and African leaders to press for a complete and general disarmament of nuclear weapons.

"We must also insist that non-nuclear weapon states have unimpeded access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," Abdullah said.

Abdullah also urged Asian and African leaders to work together to reform the United Nations, saying there was a need to ensure developing countries were not marginalized in the world body's decision-making process.

"Reform of the United Nations must aim toward the strengthening of the multilateral system, not allowing its diminution," Abdullah said. "Principles should prevail over power."

JASBANT SINGH, Associated Press Writer

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