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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 08:02 GMT


World: Asia-Pacific

Malaysia hits back at Gore

Mr Gore's comments have not impressed his hosts


Paul Royall reports
In an escalating war of words, Malaysia has accused the United States of inciting efforts to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi said said remarks made by US Vice-President were "most unwarranted".


Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi: "Malaysians do not take kindly to sanctimonious sermonising"
He said it was "abhorrent" that the US Government should incite "certain elements within the country" to use undemocratic means in order to overthrow a constitutionally elected administration.

Earlier Mr Gore provoked fury amongst Malaysian government ministers by expressing support for the country's reform movement. He went on to reiterate the need for democracy and freedom.

Malaysia Crisis Section
Mr Gore said he was proud to have delivered the message.

"Moving into the 21st century with a strong economy really requires democracy and self-government," he said.


South East Asia Correspondent Simon Ingram: "Expressions of rage"
"That is the American message and I am proud to deliver it here and anywhere I go."

At a dinner for Apec business leaders on Monday night, Mr Gore delivered what correspondents say was a stinging rebuke to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad by praising the "brave people" of Malaysia calling for "reformasi".

Rallying call

The term has become the slogan for supporters of the sacked Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim whose trial on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct has become the focus for unprecedented anti-government protests.

Other delegations have moved to stop the row disrupting the economic business of the summit. New Zealand prime minister Jenny Shipley criticised what she termed megaphone diplomacy.


[ image: Reformasi is the rallying call for Anwar's supporters]
Reformasi is the rallying call for Anwar's supporters
Intense security precautions are in place in Kuala Lumpur to ensure that the two-day gathering of the 21 nation forum passes off without distraction.

Mr Anwar's trial has been suspended for the duration of the summit.

Government 'totally disgusted'

Malaysian ministers denounced Mr Gore's comments as unwarranted interference in their internal affairs.

Trade Minister, Rafidah Aziz, a close ally of Dr Mahathir, said Mr Gore did not understand what was happening in Malaysia and his message was to condone riots and demonstrations.


Rafidah Aziz: "A totally disgusting and inappropriate speech"
"From my point of view as a government minister, we are totally disgusted," she said.

Education Minister Najib Abdul Razak also criticised the Vice-President for what he called "an absolutely intolerable state of behaviour and unbecoming of a leader of the United States."

Summit overshadowed

The furore following Mr Gore's speech has overshadowed the unveiling of a $10bn aid package from Japan and the US intended to help the region regain some of its economic lustre.

The Japanese government has responded coolly to the diplomatic row, with the Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi, saying he hoped "law and justice" would solve the political upheaval in Malaysia.

Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said Mr Gore's comments were inappropriate to the meeting: "Politics should not get in the way of Apec."


Al Gore: "My point is very simple"
New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley also said she was worried that "megaphone diplomacy" was threatening the economic group.

"Apec is an economic forum where cooperation is being sought," she said. "Clearly there are some pressing bilateral issues that countries want to raise here in Malaysia but it should not be at the expense of Apec."

New Zealand will play host to the next meeting of Apec leaders in 1999.



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Internet Links


Apec

United States Apec Index

US State Dept: Secretary Albright's Trip to Asia

Anwar Online

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Malaysian Prime Minister's Office

Vice President Al Gore


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