KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s foreign minister on Friday praised an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush earlier this week, calling it retaliation for the invasion of Iraq.
“The best show of retaliation so far is the shoe throwing act by that remarkable reporter who gave President Bush his final farewell last week,” Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said at an event to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the United Nations.
“That shoe throwing episode, in my view is truly the best Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) to the leader who coined the phrase ‘axis of evil’ to denote Iran, Iraq and North Korea,” Rais said, according to the advance text of his speech.
Copies of the speech, entitled “The Importance of Peace and Harmony in multiracial Malaysia” were distributed to the media by his office.
TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi shot to fame when he called Bush a “dog” in Arabic at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad last Sunday and threw both his shoes at Bush — a grave insult in the Arab world.
The incident, replayed again and again on television and the Internet around the world, has been widely condemned in diplomatic circles but the source of great mirth among many ordinary people in the Middle East and beyond.
Zaidi has even been hailed a hero by some commentators, with offers of employment and even proposals of marriage, but he faces criminal charges in Iraq for the attempted assault.
Zaidi was brought before an investigating judge on Tuesday and admitted “aggression against a president”, a crime that could incur a 15-year sentence, judicial officials said. He could face trial soon.
On Thursday, the Iraqi prime minister’s office said Zaidi had apologised for the incident.
“Zaidi said in his letter that his big ugly act cannot be excused,” Maliki’s media advisor said.
Mostly Muslim Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country of 27 million people, opposed the Iraq war but is an ally of the U.S. and won favour from Washington after it cracked down on Islamic militants after the 9/11 attacks.
Rais has twice been the country’s foreign minister and usually is known for more measured tones.