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Malaysia Willing to Cooperate with Thailand on Terror Suspect


Malaysia says it is willing to cooperate with Thailand after the arrest of a suspected terrorist leader linked to attacks in Thailand's Muslim southern provinces. The announcement of the arrest has triggered a diplomatic dispute between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi says his country is willing to share information with Bangkok about Thailand's most wanted terrorist suspect, Jehkumir Kuteh.

Mr. Abdullah told reporters that a search of Mr. Jehkumir's home indicated he had only Malaysian identification papers, and that Malaysia has no extradition treaty with Thailand.

But Mr. Abdullah says this does not rule out the possibility of Mr. Jehkumir being handed over to Thai authorities, although it would require a formal request from Bangkok.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced Wednesday that the Malaysian police had arrested Mr. Jehkumir earlier this month. Mr. Thaksin said he wanted Malaysia to hand the suspect over.

Those comments led the Malaysian foreign minister to chide Mr. Thaksin, say that the request should go through proper channels, not through the news media.

In turn, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said the Malaysian response was "not constructive" to the close relations between the two countries.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow says that statement aimed to clarify Mr. Thaksin's comments.

"It was to clarify that there has been close co-ordination between the authorities concerned of the two countries through the proper channels, contrary to what was said by the Malaysian foreign minister when he made the comments to the press," he said.

Mr. Sihasak says that efforts are still underway to verify Mr. Jehkumir's nationality. Officials in Bangkok think he also has Thai citizenship.

Mr. Jehkumir is being held under Malaysia's tough Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial. No details have been released about his arrest.

He is accused of masterminding the January 2004 raid on an army depot in southern Thailand, in which four soldiers died and hundreds of weapons were stolen. He is one of 46 suspected Muslim insurgent leaders on a list compiled by Thai security forces.

The raid a year ago was the beginning of months of separatist violence in the mostly Muslim provinces of southern Thailand. More than 660 people have died.

Thailand's population is predominantly Buddhist.

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