Published March 19, 2004
WASHINGTON – He may have not been one of the foreign leaders with whom John Kerry (search) spoke about his presidential candidacy, but former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (search) endorsed Kerry anyway on Thursday.
The former prime minister, who made headlines in October for saying at an Islamic Summit Conference that "the Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews," said Kerry would keep the world safer than President Bush.
"I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world," Mahathir, who retired in October after 22 years in power, told The Associated Press in an interview.
"But in the U.S., the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically," he said.
Kerry said last week that he has talked with several foreign leaders who said they want him to win the presidential election in November in order to introduce "new policies."
Kerry would not name any of the leaders with whom he spoke, but his campaign made clear Thursday that none of them was Mahathir, whom a Kerry spokesman described as not the kind of leader Kerry wants backing him.
Kerry "rejects any association" with Mahathir, "an avowed anti-Semite (search) whose views are totally deplorable," said Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers in a statement.
“This election will be decided by the American people, and the American people alone. It is simply not appropriate for any foreign leader to endorse a candidate in America’s presidential election. John Kerry does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsements,” Beers said.
Kerry has already received another endorsement from a less controversial, yet still foreign leader.
Jose-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search), the newly elected president of Spain, said in an interview with Spanish radio on Wednesday that American voters should change their leadership and support Kerry.
"I said during the campaign I hoped Spain and the Spaniards would be ahead of the Americans for once," Zapatero reportedly said. "First, we win here, we change this government, and then the Americans will do it, if things continue as they are in Kerry's favor."
Zapatero was elected Saturday in a surprise victory two days after a series of bombs rocked the Madrid railways, killing 202 passengers and injuring 1,500. He vowed to pull out Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq unless the security mission there is put under U.N. command.
Mahathir, who was one of the most outspoken leaders in the Islamic world, also said the March 11 train bombings in Spain demonstrated that the Iraqi war has aggravated international terrorism and raised hostility toward Washington and its allies.
Fox News' Sharon Kehnemui and The Associated Press contributed to this report.