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Malaysia Ready to Conduct Anthrax Probe - 2001-10-15

Malaysian officials are expressing dismay over reports that a letter containing anthrax discovered in the United States was mailed from Malaysia and are asking for more information. It is but one of several cases that have prompted fears of biological terrorism.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad Monday said he wants the United States to provide information about the incident so that his government can launch an investigation. He told reporters so far he has not received any information but pledged full cooperation with the U.S. government in investigating the case.

The Malaysian prime minister made the remarks before meeting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, who expressed appreciation for the pledge. "The Malaysia government promptly pointed out that this was a dreadful turn of events," he said. "I think that is an excellent description of it. And so we have to get to the bottom of it. There're various reports of where these things may or may not have come from. And I think we will try to do that because we have a common interest in not letting people use disease to kill innocent people."

The U.S. trade representative also met Monday with Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who later said he does not believe the letter came from Malaysia. The foreign minister said he expressed concern to Ambassador Zoellick that unverified reports could tarnish Malaysia's image at a time when its economy is already reeling from a drop in tourism and the global economic downturn. Officials in Nevada are investigating a letter contaminated with anthrax that was received at an office of Microsoft. The letter contained a check that had reportedly been sent to a company vendor in Malaysia. But the letter was returned. The check and envelope reportedly were not contaminated, but pornographic material that had been placed inside was. Four people were tested for anthrax contamination but the results were negative.