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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 11:57 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Malaysian anger at Gore rebuke

Al Gore rebukes the Malaysian Government over reforms

Malaysia Crisis Section
The Indonesian Trade Minister, Rafidah Aziz, has reacted angrily to a speech by the American Vice-President Al Gore on the eve of Asia-Pacific summit in Kuala Lumpur.

The BBC's Simon Ingram; "The reform movement hardly expected Al Gore's resounding endorsement"
Mr Gore had expressed support for the reform movement in Malaysia, in what correspondents describe as a sharp rebuke to the Malaysian government.

Mr Gore said that Washington heard many calls for democracy and reform in nations suffering economic crises - including the calls from what he called the brave people of Malaysia.

"From Thailand to South Korea, eastern Europe to Mexico, democracies have done better in coping with economic crisis than nations where freedom is suppressed," he said.

[ image: Mind your own business: Dr Mahathir's warning]
Mind your own business: Dr Mahathir's warning
Mr Gore also used the word 'reformasi' - the rallying cry of anti-government protestors who support the sacked Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim.

The Indonesian trade minister said Mr Gore's address was the most disgusting speech she had heard in her life.

Mr Gore had been speaking to business leaders on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit hosted by Malaysia, which has been rocked by weeks of protests against the ousting of deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

Concern about Ibrahim

Foreign leaders visiting Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific economic summit have voiced concern over the case of the detained former finance minister, Anwar Ibrahim, who is on trial on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct.

Australian PM John Howard: "We've been very direct"
Their comments were made despite requests by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, that Apec leaders should keep out of Malaysia's internal affairs.

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, described his talks with the Malaysian leader as frank and courteous.

New Zealand's PM Jenny Shipley: "We do feel strongly"
But he expressed concern over Mr Anwar's treatment, and disclosed that his foreign minister had secretly met Mr Anwar's wife on Sunday.

Azizah Ismail also met Canadian ministers and the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the same day.

Mr Howard's New Zealand counterpart, Jenny Shipley, was even more forthright.

"It's my belief that the best way we can help the Anwar family is to make it clear to Mahathir that we do feel strongly about the rights of people to enjoy political freedom and also the rights of people to have a fair trial," she said.

The case was not raised, however, during Mr Mahathir's talks on Monday with the Philippines president, Joseph Estrada, who has previously expressed support for Mr Anwar.

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