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Tuesday, November 10, 1998 Published at 20:41 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Malaysian PM: I'm not quitting

Dr Mahathir: No intention of going

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has dismissed growing calls for his resignation after 17 years in power.

Malaysia Crisis Section
He also defended his decision to sack his deputy Anwar Ibrahim, who had been expected to step into his shoes, for moral reasons.

The former deputy prime minister has been charged with 10 counts of corruption and sexual misconduct, including sodomy.

[ image: Protesters call for PM's resignation]
Protesters call for PM's resignation
Mr Anwar says the charges are part of a political conspiracy to get rid of him.

However, Dr Mahathir, Asia's longest-ruling leader, speaking on CNN, gave an assurance his former number two would receive a fair hearing.

It was Dr Mahathir's first interview with the foreign media since Mr Anwar's trial began on 2 November.

He said until recently he had thought Mr Anwar was the best person to succeed him.

But he added: "When I found that he was involved in these activities which are not acceptable in our society, I felt that he was not compatible with the role he [was] going to play as prime minister of Malaysia."

He has repeatedly blasted the international press which has given extensive coverage of Mr Anwar's sacking and the popular reform movement linked with his name.

'I will testify if called to'

Dr Mahathir said Mr Anwar's trial would be fair and said he was prepared to give evidence.

[ image: Mr Anwar: Dr Mahathir is 'drunk with power']
Mr Anwar: Dr Mahathir is 'drunk with power'
"I have not been asked to testify. But if I'm sub-poenaed to testify, I have to," he added.

Mr Anwar's first trial on four of the corruption charge has become the focal point of dissent in Malaysia.

But Dr Mahathir brushed aside calls for his resignation which have grown since Mr Anwar's arrest.

"I don't think the reform movement will snowball into a very big movement.

'Anwar tampered with witnesses'

Mr Anwar has been in jail since his arrest on 20 September.

Dr Mahathir said he understood Mr Anwar was refused bail because he had interfered with witnesses and police work.

After his arrest Mr Anwar appeared in court with a black eye and said he had been beaten up by police.

Dr Mahathir, who promised a thorough inquiry, said he was uncertain why a report on the investigation had not yet been released.

Dr Mahathir unworried by foreign leaders' snub

The prime minister has been strongly criticised by foreign leaders including Philippine President Joseph Estrada and Indonesian President BJ Habibie, over Mr Anwar's detention.

But he said he did not believe regional cooperation would suffer.

"It will affect it for a while but I don't think it is a lasting thing," he said.

"We believe in working together and these kind of things happens to every country. If we...start criticising each other, we can never get on."

US President Bill Clinton and three other foreign leaders have also snubbed Dr Mahathir over the Anwar affair.

They have decided not to hold talks with him at next week's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Kuala Lumpur.

But Dr Mahathir said he was not worried.

"I don't think it's possible for the host to meet 20 other heads of government," he added.

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