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Sunday, November 15, 1998 Published at 14:40 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Albright snubs Malaysia

Mrs Albright was warned not to "meddle"

In a parting snub to Malaysia, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited the wife of former finance minister, Anwar Ibrahim, before cutting short her trip to return to Washington.

Malaysia Crisis Section
Mr Anwar is currently on trial on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct.

Mrs Albright met Azizah Ismail, despite warnings by Malaysia not to meddle in its internal affairs.

She managed to pack the visit into a tight schedule of ministerial meetings leading up to the Asia-Pacific economic summit.

And she kept the appointment despite her decision to fly home less than 24 hours after arriving in Kuala Lumpur, due to continued US-Iraqi tensions in the Gulf.

Albright visit welcomed

Azizah Ismail described the secretary of state as very warm.

"I'm very happy with the meeting. We had a lot of support from Secretary of State Albright," she said after the meeting.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy explains why he met Azizah
Mrs Albright had earlier voiced concern about the Anwar trial, in particular the beatings he allegedly received while in detention.

"The US has made clear a number of times that Anwar Ibrahim is a highly respected leader," she said.

"The reporting on the trial of Anwar Ibrahim gives us great concern. We hope very much he will receive due process and a fair trial."

On Saturday the Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, hosted a lunch for Azizah Ismail in support of Mr Anwar.

Police fire at protesters

Mr Anwar's trial has been put on hold for the duration of the Apec summit.

[ image: Security is tight for the Apec summit]
Security is tight for the Apec summit
But about 200 protesters gathered at the heart of the capital, demanding an end to the 17-year rule of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

They were dispersed on Sunday when police fired teargas and water-cannon at them.

On Saturday night police fired several warning shots over the heads of more than 1,000 chanting demonstrators who had torched a police motorcycle and burned pictures of the prime minister.

Aborted visit

South-east Asia Correspondent Simon Ingram reports on collapse of Apec talks
Mrs Albright was to have gone on to Thailand and Indonesia, but cut short the visit after dismissing the Iraqi climbdown as inadequate.

President Clinton has already announced that he will be unable to attend the summit.

A White House spokesman said Mr Clinton would try to complete the second part of his planned Asia tour - to Japan, South Korea and Guam.

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