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Malaysia warns of Iraq backlash

Badawi (left) has been handpicked my Mahathir (right) to take succeed him
Badawi (left) has been handpicked my Mahathir (right) to take succeed him

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- An attack on Iraq would pave the way for a terrorist backlash, bolstering radical Muslims like Osama bin Laden, says the man picked to successed Malaysia's longtime Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed.

Abdullah Badawi, currently Mahathir's deputy prime minister, is expected to take the helm of Malaysia in October, assuming the leadership of one of the United States' main allies in the war on terrorism -- and a moderate, progressive voice in the Muslim world.

However, Badawi, who also heads Malaysia's anti-terror efforts, told CNN a U.S. attack on Iraq would be disastrous, derailing the war on terrorism and fomenting domestic unrest for most Muslim nations.

"It will be a tragedy," the 63-year-old one-time foreign minister said.

"Economics will be affected and the fear is that there may be more terrorist activities, anti-U.S. terrorist activities. People are beginning to hate the United States in a way that has never happened in recent times."

Most of Malaysia's 23 million people are Muslims, and as in many other Muslim countries, the war on terror is a battle for the soul of Islam -- between a radical minority and a moderate majority.

Next month, Malaysia will host a meeting of Non-Aligned Nations -- including Iraq and North Korea.

While Badawi's mentor Mahathir -- who has ruled Malaysia for more than two decades -- is harshly critical of U.S. actions in Iraq, the deputy is more muted.

"We can do whatever needs to be done to mobilize forces for peace," he said.

Badawi pledged a smooth transition.

"It is certainly a good formula to ensure there is continuity and when that is done, we can also ensure there is stability," he said.

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