CHICAGO – In a speech peppered with criticisms of President Bush, Nation of Islam (search) leader Louis Farrakhan on Sunday pressed for America and England to grant slave reparations.
Farrakhan, speaking at the final session of the Nation of Islam's annual meeting, also voiced support for Michael Jackson and warned blacks against supporting the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. John Kerry (search), D-Mass.
"Black people are so angry with President Bush that they're willing to give Senator Kerry a free ride," he said. "Getting rid of Bush and getting John Kerry ... will mean you'll get more of the same."
Farrakhan said blacks should consider supporting candidate Al Sharpton (search) to give that candidate more power to promote black issues.
While calling Sharpton "brilliant," Farrakhan told the crowd: "You know, I know and he knows that he ain't going to be no president."
Farrakhan accused Bush of wanting to go to war with Iraq from his first day in office, and of knowing Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction.
Former chief weapons inspector David Kay (search) has concluded Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Bush has defended his decision to go to war, saying Saddam was a threat.
Speaking for about three hours, Farrakhan, 70, said America and Great Britain need to recognize their roles in the slave trade. He urged Congress to consider a bill sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (search), D-Mich. that would establish a commission to study slavery.
Farrakhan said whites fail to realize they hold privileged positions in America because of slavery.
"If America is not willing to look at ... what happened to us as a people, there will never be a chance for good relations between blacks and whites," he said.
Farrakhan said he believes Michael Jackson is innocent of charges he committed lewd acts on a child. Nation of Islam chief of staff Leonard F. Muhammad (search) has been working with Jackson, and other members of the group are providing security for the pop star.