Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi issued a blunt warning yesterday that the United States should not act unilaterally against Iraq. Speaking at the World Economic Forum for East Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Abdullah also said that an overhaul of the United Nations' decision-making machinery was essential to make the body more democratic. His comments reflect growing opposition in moderate Muslim states - both at street level and in government circles - to Washington's willingness to confront Baghdad without UN approval. 'Individual states cannot permit for themselves conduct which they condemn in others,' said the man set to take over from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. 'One nation cannot demand that another change its government - 'or else'.' In recent months, US President George W. Bush has committed his administration to a policy of regime change in Iraq. 'No nation has the right to wage war on another without the authorisation of the United Nations' Security Council,' Mr Abdullah said. Although Mr Abdullah did not mention Iraq or the US by name in his address, the intended target of his criticism was clear. Dr Mahathir renewed his criticism of Washington, saying it has failed to address the root causes of terrorism. 'Stop examining the shoes of hundreds of millions for the hundred or so terrorists, but look instead for the causes which move people, normal family people, to blast themselves to smithereens, and eliminate the causes,' he said in an advance copy of a speech that was to be delivered last night. Dr Mahathir was referring to the tight security measures the US has implemented since the September 11 attacks last year. He and Mr Abdullah had said they were subjected to such checks recently, which struck many Malaysians as rude. The US Embassy has expressed regrets. Relations between Washington and Kuala Lumpur have improved significantly in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Dr Mahathir and Mr Abdullah are regarded by the US as the type of moderate leaders in the Muslim world that should be encouraged to help the war against terrorism. But despite the warming of ties, deep differences remain over the methods by which Washington prosecutes its foreign policy. During the US military drive to oust the Taleban in Afghanistan, Malaysia criticised the resulting civilian casualties. Mr Abdullah also called for wide-ranging reform of the UN, attacking its current make-up and procedures as undemocratic. 'Political institutions, beginning with the United Nations, must become more representative and more reflective of the dispersal of power among the nations of today,' he said. 'They must not perpetuate the disposition of power that was obtained more than a half-century ago.' He added: 'The veto system is totally undemocratic. It places the fate of world peace and global justice in the hands of one solitary nation acting in defiance of the wishes of the vast majority.' The UN's supreme decision-making body - the Security Council - reflects the balance of power at the end of World War II when it was set up. The US, Britain, Russia, China and France are permanent members of the council and each can veto a resolution. The body's other 10 members serve rotating turns of two years. However, Mr Abdullah did not offer any specific proposals for UN reform.