LAUSANNE (Switzerland): Barely a week after US Ambassador to Malaysia Marie Huhtala warned Kuala Lumpur that bilateral ties could be affected because of critical remarks by its leaders on the superpower’s foreign policies, US President George Bush warmly greeted Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad during an informal dialogue between leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) and developing countries held in France.
The US President patted the Prime Minister on his back and asked how he was.
Dr Mahathir said: “There was no bilateral (meeting). He acted very friendly, extended his hand for a handshake and asked how I was.
“He asked: ‘Are you still in power’ and I replied: ‘Until October’.”
Asked if this was a good sign for bilateral relations with the United States since Huhtala had made such remarks, Dr Mahathir replied: “Well, it was not reflected in Bush’s attitude towards me.
“In fact, he was passing behind me, he patted me on my back. It was a friendly gesture. When he was leaving, he shook my hand,” the Prime Minister told reporters after attending the dialogue at Evian in France on Sunday.
Asked whether he did the same to Bush, Dr Mahathir said: “I don’t pat people’s back.”
The US envoy, had in a speech at a business forum last week, said ties would go downhill unless leaders curbed their sometimes offensive criticism of Washington’s foreign policy.
She said such comments were not helpful and could have a harmful effect.
Following Huhtala’s remarks, Dr Mahathir had said in Kuala Lumpur that Malaysia would continue to voice its opinions without fear, saying Malaysia spoke the truth and said what it believed was true.
Malaysia has been outspoken against US policies, especially on its invasion of Iraq.
Dr Mahathir was in Evian to attend the one-day informal dialogue at the invitation of French President Jacques Chirac as the G8 host. This is the first time he was invited along with 12 other leaders from developing countries, including from Brazil, China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and India.
The Prime Minister also held a four-eyed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the dialogue.
Dr Mahathir expressed his satisfaction with the meeting as both of them shared the same opinion on many international issues.
Russia, together with Germany and France, has been critical of the US for the invasion of Iraq.
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