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The Nation | THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Kerry Gets a Supporter Foreign to His Views

March 19, 2004|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry received the backing of an unwelcome source Thursday when former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that he supported him.

Mahathir, who had been in power 22 years, retired in October following condemnation of remarks he made that "Jews rule the world by proxy."

Kerry's foreign policy advisor, Rand Beers, released a statement saying that the Massachusetts senator rejected any association with Mahathir, "an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable."

Still, Mahathir's backing kept attention focused on a controversial statement Kerry made last week. Speaking to donors at a fundraiser in Florida, Kerry said unnamed "leaders" had told him they wanted him to defeat President Bush. Kerry later said he was talking about "people around the world" at "different levels."

His remark drew a flurry of criticism from Republicans, including Bush, who challenged him to name the officials.

On Thursday, Kerry's campaign sought to clarify Kerry's stance about support from abroad.

"This election will be decided by the American people, and the American people alone," Beers said. "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."

Mahathir, in comments to Associated Press in Putrajaya, Malaysia, said, "I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world."

He also said: "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."

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