Mr. President,

Allow me, at the outset, to congratulate you on your election as President of the 57th session of the General Assembly. I am confident that given your vast experience and diplomatic skills you will be able to steer this session to a successful conclusion.

I would also like to pay tribute to your distinguished predecessor, H.E. Mr. Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea for the outstanding manner in which he had conducted the work of the 56th session of the General Assembly.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the Swiss Confederation as the 190th Member of our Family of Nations. We are confident that its membership, which formalizes its long involvement with the United Nations, will contribute enormously to the work of the Organisation.

We look forward to welcoming our newly independent neighbour, the Democratic Republic of East Timor, as the 191st Member of the United Nations in the very near future.

Malaysia would also like to congratulate Africa on the establishment of the African Union (AU) and their bold new initiatives such as the New Programme for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

I also thank the Secretary General for his statement to the General Assembly. Malaysia shares his concerns over the four issues identified as threats to world peace.

Mr. President,

A year has passed since the evil and cowardly attacks against this Organisation's host country. As a result, the world has changed fundamentally in many ways. The international community has been galvanized into fighting all forms of terrorism. There is a greater recognition that terrorism is a global problem that crosses borders and lurks in many of our countries often unbeknown to us.

The Security Council had taken prompt action resulting in the mandatory measures aimed at eliminating all forms and manifestations of terrorism requiring member states to take legal, administrative, financial control and other law enforcement measures. Malaysia supports this action and reiterates our commitment to comprehensively fighting terrorism in all of its forms at the domestic, regional and international levels.

Domestically, our Government has acted swiftly and decisively against terrorist groups which have threatened both our national security as well as international security. We have cooperated extensively at the bilateral level by sharing intelligence information and putting in measures to cripple transnational criminal networks that abet terrorist activities. In the Southeast Asian region, Malaysia and its ASEAN partners have embarked on a programme of collaboration to deal with the issue at the regional level. At the international level, in addition to our support of United Nations actions and other international and bilateral efforts in fighting terrorism, Malaysia also works closely with the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Commonwealth.

However, Malaysia believes that in our quest to combat terrorism, the norms and principles of international law should not be set aside. We also believe that in dealing with the menace it is important for the international community to forge a broad consensus on what constitutes terrorism. Without a clear and common definition, certain perpetrators of terrorist acts will justify their actions in the name of state security or national liberation.

If the collective effort of the international community to win the fight against terrorism is going to succeed, we must start looking at the problem in a comprehensive manner and respond with a comprehensive strategy. It seems that in our urgency to address the problem, we overlook and continue to ignore why the problem exists in the first place.

We forget that, however unjustified, terrorism is often rooted in political and economic grievances that have still not been adequately addressed. The fight against terrorism is not merely a fight against the perpetrators and conspirators of terrorist attacks, but it is also a fight against poverty, injustice, subjugation and illegal occupation that breeds anger and hatred. There can be no comprehensive victory against terrorism if the root causes of terror are not eliminated.

Malaysia also regrets the continued profiling, by certain quarters, of Islam and Muslims with terrorism, as if one is synonymous with the other. We would like to reiterate that no race or religion should be condemned or discriminated against simply because some misguided people from that community are or may have been involved in terrorist activities.

Just as it is easy and convenient to hold a monolithic view of the Muslim world and therefore assume the worst of every adherent of the Islamic faith, it is also easy for Muslims to have a similarly monolithic and therefore incorrect view of other civilizations. If we continue to view each other in such terms, the confidence that has been engendered in the international community in our fight against terrorism can be eroded.

It is with these considerations in mind that Malaysia continues to call for the convening of a high level international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to examine the terrorism issue in all forms and manifestations and formulate a joint response to this global threat.

Mr. President,

Malaysia is concerned at the apparent lack of urgency in addressing the underlying factors that cause terrorism. For example, most of the Muslim world believes that one of the key outstanding issue that continues to elicit resentment and fury is the situation in the Palestinian occupied territories. While Malaysia believes that all acts of violence against innocent civilians, whether inflicted by suicide bombers or security forces, must be condemned, we must be even-handed in our approach in dealing with the situation in the region.

It is important that we understand the root causes of violence in the region. We must put it in its proper context, namely the continued occupation of Arab lands by the Israeli occupying forces, in particular the demolition of their homes, devastation of their towns and cities and destruction of their livelihood and institutions and, worst of all, the loss of thousands of civilian lives and the wounding of tens of thousands more over the decades, which would definitely result in a reaction from the Palestinian people.

Israel's oppressive policies and practices have made life for the Palestinians unbearable and have engendered only hatred and resentment against the occupying power, illegal settlers and those who are perceived to provide them support. Israel must take advantage of the acceptance of the Two States Solution and recognize that political and security issues must be looked at together and the necessity for the establishment of an international protection force to separate the two parties.

The international community, including the United Nations, cannot afford to stand on the sidelines indefinitely. It is time for the Security Council to be more actively involved and to directly intervene in the situation, beginning with the dispatch of a United Nations or international peacekeeping force to the Occupied Territories. Failure to act will only perpetuate the violence and exacerbate the resentment felt by the Palestinians, as well as the Muslim world in general, towards those who are perceived to be responsible for refusing to address this issue in a fair and just manner.

Mr. President,

We are pleased that Afghanistan is now on the threshold of becoming a viable, progressive and democratic state. However, many impediments to national unity and cohesion remain which must be overcome with sustained international support and, more importantly, the political will and commitment of the people of Afghanistan themselves. Such support should take the form of increased infusion of development funds and other forms of assistance and, more urgently, the promotion of a more secure environment for the whole country.

We owe it to the long-suffering Afghan people to assist in the rehabilitation of their country and to ensure that the circumstances that led to their civil strife are removed and that they would not be abandoned once the immediate task of removing terrorist elements in Afghanistan is over.

Instead of focusing our efforts in comprehensively fighting terrorism by attempting to find a credible settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and on nation-building efforts in Afghanistan, the international community risks being dragged into opening up battle fronts that can result in greater instability in the world and hamper efforts towards combating terrorism.

In particular, we remain concerned that targeting Iraq outside the framework of the United Nations and in contravention of international law will not only be wrong, but will result in a more volatile world order. In this regard, we welcome the decision by the United States to work with the United Nations to address this issue rather than pursuing a unilateral policy of military intervention.

Malaysia agrees that the United Nations must not be cast aside. However, engaging the international community through the United Nations must not merely be an exercise in public diplomacy. The international community cannot be made to assume that military intervention against Iraq, in the pursuit of both disarmament and regime change, is inevitable and that the United Nations is only being engaged as a matter of course.

The strength and relevance of this Organisation has never come from affirming the unilateral designs of one member nation but instead rests on the collective will of the international community that emerges from a multilateral process. Engaging the international community means initiating this consensual approach that can address security concerns without destabilizing the region and within the norms of international law.

In this effort, it is imperative that the international community is presented with clear and incontrovertible evidence of the perceived threat posed by Iraq to regional and international security. At the same time, every diplomatic and political effort should be made to urge Iraq to fully cooperate with the United Nations, including allowing the return of UN weapons inspectors, and to comply with UN Security Council resolutions, as every member state of this Organisation must do, so as to facilitate a resolution to this issue.

A preemptive attack against Iraq without any credible evidence to the international community of the threat it poses will have serious implications on the international campaign against terrorism. Such an attack may pronounce real cleavages and draw imaginary battle lines between the Muslim world and the West, especially when the continued oppression of the Palestinians remains unattended.

Such an attack can swell the ranks of the discontented in the Muslim world. It will give the pretext for depraved extremist groups bent on stoking the flames of populist radicalism to mobilize and multiply. Therefore, while it is important to view the Iraq issue in terms of regional security, it is equally important to understand the broader consequences that will follow.

Mr. President,

In our interdependent world, the need for strengthening the multilateral process is now more urgent than ever before if we are to achieve our common goal of a just and humane international order based on international cooperation and solidarity.

The larger membership of this Organisation has a vital stake in ensuring the centrality of the multilateral process as embodied by the United Nations and its specialized and affiliated agencies. Through it, the members of the Organisation can articulate their concerns and exercise their collective will in the protection and promotion of their interests. It is therefore important to ensure that the Organisation and all that it stands for are not set aside on the exigency or expediency of the moment. In this context we are reassured by the Secretary General's emphasis on the imperativeness of the multilateral process.

As the incoming Chairman of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), Malaysia will work together with other NAM members to ensure the continued centrality of this process including the promotion of their development agenda.

In this context, we must continue to exert our combined efforts to ensure that globalisation works for the benefit of all. In order to achieve this, we have to create a more conducive international environment which would satisfy the legitimate development priorities and needs of developing countries, as well as address the economic imbalances prevailing in the world today.

The United Nations has a pivotal role in strengthening the multilateral process. It is ironic that at a time of enormous economic, financial and technological resources and capabilities, the world is witnessing a dangerous crisis of confidence in the credibility of multilateralism as a result of certain negative trends in the international system.

This challenge must be squarely and urgently addressed and remedial actions taken here at the United Nations and other relevant international forums. It is the expectation of member states of this Organisation that the United Nations will play a crucial and leading role in all these efforts. Herein lies the continued relevance of the United Nations to its member states.

Thank you, Mr. President.