Malaysia’s PM calls for sanctions law at UN

This file photo shows Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad giving a speech as he takes part in a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum at the far-eastern Russian port of Vladivostok on 5 September, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday urged greater international control of sanctions, criticizing United States (US) attempts to force all countries to stop doing business with Iran.

"We do not know under what laws sanctions are applied. It appears to be the privilege of the rich and the powerful," the outspoken 94-year-old leader said in an address to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

"If you want to have sanctions, let us have a law to govern them," he said.

"The fact is that when sanctions are applied to a country, other countries get sanctioned as well. Malaysia and many others lost a big market when sanctions were applied on Iran."

The US has increasingly used sanctions as a diplomatic tool, with President Donald Trump threatening other nations with punishment if they buy any oil from Iran.

Seeking to curb Iran's regional influence, Trump unilaterally imposed the sanctions after walking away from a multinational nuclear deal.

Speaking to reporters after his address, Mahathir acknowledged that Malaysian firms had little choice but to comply for fear of being hit by US sanctions.

Trans-Pacific Partnership 

"Generally, the world is helpless," he said.

Mahathir also renewed his criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an 11-nation trade pact that includes Malaysia but from which Trump pulled the US.

"Rich companies had given themselves the power to sue governments. The terms of the agreement were drawn up by them – and they are not all like Bill Gates, who spends some money on charity," he said.

"Most are bent on exploiting the power money gives them," he said.

Mahathir called for a renegotiation of the TPP after his election last year.

The deal had been sealed shortly before the surprise return to power of Mahathir, who had led Malaysia for more than two decades before his retirement in 2003. - AFP