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Malaysia's premier draws analogy between Trump wall, ban on Israeli athletes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The undated photo shows Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (AFP)

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has defended Malaysia’s ban on Israeli athletes from taking part in international events, comparing the move to President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico.

"Every country has the right to accept or refuse entry of anybody," the Malaysian premier said during a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday, adding "You can see that in America now they are erecting a very high wall to prevent Mexicans from going to America." 

"We have the same idea, that people who are undesirable for our country will be kept out of our country," Mahathir added.

"If their people want to compete in sport, they can go to some other country."

Malaysia recently said it would not allow Israeli athletes to enter the country to compete at any sporting event there after it banned Israeli swimmers from taking part in the World Para Swimming Championships, slated for July in the eastern state of Sarawak. The event is an important milestone toward the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

President Trump has threatened to close the US’s southern border if Congress does not agree to provide $5.7 billion for his wall along the border with Mexico. Trump has also restricted travel to the US from certain Muslim-majority countries, as well as several non-Muslim states.

Trump’s hard stand for an expensive border wall has also witnessed the tragic death of a number of refugee children while in custody of the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

Brandishing Israel "a criminal" entity, Mahathir said the Israeli athletes came from an entity which does what it desires, including building settlements in other people's territories and excluding the very people from their homeland.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Malaysian prime minister denounced the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.

"They have raided our ship carrying aid to the Gaza people, there are many other things done by Israel that are against international laws and against morality," he told reporters.

Israel has called on the International Paralympic Committee to challenge the decision or change the venue of the competition.

Kuala Lumpur, which has no formal diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, has rejected pleas from the world sporting body the International Paralympic Committee to find a solution to the row. Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event before. Two Israeli windsurfers had to pull out of a competition on Langkawi island after they were denied visa in 2015.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Wednesday said the latest decision was related to "fighting on behalf of the oppressed."

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