CHICAGO, Feb. 25 (AP) - Nearly four months after major surgery, a fiery Louis Farrakhan returned to a public forum, criticizing actions taken by the administration of George W. Bush.
The Nation of Islam leader said he wasn't sure, as recently as Friday, that he would be feeling well enough to give his annual speech for Saviours' Day in honor of the group's founders.
Farrakhan's Nation of Islam is a black nationalist group that says it is guided by the Koran, but is not considered a true Muslim sect by many more traditional followers of Islam.
Farrakhan said Sunday that he wanted to set the record straight for anyone who thought his serious health issues have caused him to soften. The 67-year-old Farrakhan had surgery Nov. 1 to repair damage done by treatment for prostate cancer.
``When I said I had a near-death experience, they said, 'Well, this is a kinder, sweeter, gentler Farrakhan.' The hell he is,'' Farrakhan said to rousing applause from the crowd of 4,000 who gathered at a church on Chicago's far South Side. The speech was also broadcast nationwide.
Farrakhan criticized Bush for recent missile strikes launched in Iraq, a predominantly Muslim country, and education proposals that Farrakhan said would do little to help minority and poor children.
He also asked Christian ministers in attendance to reject new federal funding proposals for faith-based organizations, which he said was partially a ploy to woo the large number of black Americans who voted for Democrat Al Gore.
``Bush is not foolish,'' Farrakhan said. ``He wants to win you, preacher.''
Farrakhan came to the defense of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Chicago-based black civil rights leader who revealed last month that he had fathered a now 20-month-old daughter during an extramarital affair.
``Let no one throw a stone at Rev. Jackson or anyone else,'' said Farrakhan, who also questioned the timing of the tabloid story. The article that prompted the revelation from Jackson was published days before Jackson was to lead a rally in Florida to protest allegations that black voters were kept from the polls.