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Top US Envoy Urges Malaysia to Act as Bridge to Muslim World

A top U.S. envoy has urged Malaysia to use its influence to help narrow the differences between Washington and the Islamic world and promote a better understanding of U.S. foreign policy.

Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, said in Kuala Lumpur that Muslim-majority Malaysia was an example to other nations of how people of different faiths could live in harmony.

"Here in Malaysia you have an experience of having people of different faiths and different cultures live together in an atmosphere of tolerance and peace," she said. "And I think that provides a very important example to other parts of the world."

Ms. Hughes also said that as head of the world's largest Islamic grouping, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Conference, Malaysia could use its influence within the organization to explain U.S. foreign policy to other Muslim nations.

"I do believe that Malaysia can be a very important part of our outreach," said Ms. Hughes. "And when I say 'our' I mean of civilized people's outreach to confront terror."

Ms. Hughes made the remarks during a two-day visit to Malaysia, part of an Asian tour aimed at improving the image of the United States in the Muslim world.

While Malaysia and the U.S. are allies in the fight against terrorism, Malaysia opposed the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Malaysia's official religion is Islam, but close to half the population practice other religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

The U.S. envoy traveled to Malaysia after visiting Indonesia, where she came under sharp criticism Friday from a group of students who objected to Washington's policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.

Ms. Hughes will meet with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday before returning to the United States.