Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appears to have vented pent-up frustration and fury stemming from events of the past two years in an aggressive address to the United Nations General Assembly. Following a period during which he has been strongly criticised abroad and forced to defend himself, he has gone on the offensive, attacking Australia over its role in East Timor and telling the world in effect to leave him and Malaysia alone. His speech included one of the most stinging attacks the outspoken Dr Mahathir has made on the UN, which he accused of practising 'rather unusual principles'. Dr Mahathir also delivered a strong condemnation of his perennial targets, the United States, currency traders and the International Monetary Fund, together with the related blights of Western capitalism and the Western media. At a press conference, he denounced Australia's 'belligerence' in East Timor. Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Parliament in Canberra yesterday that he 'categorically' rejected Dr Mahathir's criticism and claimed that Australian forces in East Timor had 'behaved impeccably'. Mr Howard also added a challenge, pointing out that Malaysia had been offered a leading role in Interfet but had declined to take it. 'We would particularly welcome a larger contribution from Malaysia,' he said. Analysts said Dr Mahathir's attack on Australia and call for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take over peacekeeping duties in East Timor reflected his displeasure at having a non-Asian country intruding into what he sees as a regional affair. The Malaysian leader's bitterness towards the US arises from a range of policies on which the two countries have clashed. But his antagonism towards the US was exacerbated last year when American Vice-President Al Gore, during a visit to Kuala Lumpur, publicly acclaimed people supporting Anwar Ibrahim with street demonstrations. Two years ago, Malaysia plunged into recession. Dr Mahathir fell out with Anwar, the deputy prime minister whom he accused of sexual misconduct. He sacked Anwar, who was later arrested and charged with corruption and sodomy. His heir apparent was convicted of corruption and jailed for six years. He is now on trial for sodomy.