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Malaysian PM Asks for US Help in Fighting Violence - 2002-05-14

The Prime Minister of Malaysia is asking President Bush for help in fighting violence that he says is connected to al-Qaida terrorists. The Prime Minister met with President Bush at the White House Tuesday.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his government has discovered that some of the rebels fighting to overthrow him have had contacts with al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan.

Mr. Mahathir said, "We have discovered that some of these people who are active, who plan to overthrow the government by force of arms, had actually been to Pakistan and eventually to Afghanistan where they did meet with the al-Qaida people."

Prime Minister Mahathir said opponents want to establish what he calls an "Islamic state" in Malaysia.

The United States has been critical of Mr. Mahathir for jailing his former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. Last month, the State Department called his trial unfair.

But since September 11, U.S. interest in Malaysia has focused largely on stopping terrorism.

While President Bush said his position on the Anwar case has not changed, he did not mention human rights in a session with reporters before his meeting with the Prime Minister. Instead, he praised Mr. Mahathir for the arrest of more than 60 suspected Islamic militants with links to al-Qaida.

President Bush said the United States is helping Malaysia fight terrorism by sharing intelligence and cutting-off terrorist finances.

He said there is a need to improve education and health care to offer young people an alternative to the violence of terrorism, but Mr. Bush says there is no rehabilitating hard-core terrorists connected with al-Qaida.

Mr. Bush said, "Some of these people are nothing but cold-blooded killers and there is no rehabilitation program except for bringing them to justice. These people made up their minds. The leaders of these groups have decided that they are going to come and kill, and it may be an American, it may be a Malaysian, who knows. But we are going to stop them."

The Washington-based group Human Rights Watch says it wants President Bush to press Prime Minister Mahathir to stop using the fight against terrorism as what it calls a pretext for crushing political dissent. The group says at least 105 people, including Mr. Anwar, are under arrest in Malaysia under a provision designed to protect internal security.