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Clinton Praises Moderation in Muslim-Majority Malaysia

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures during a town hall event at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 02 Nov. 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is praising Malaysians for their moderation during a visit to the Muslim-majority country, and urging them to reject extremism.

The remarks came Tuesday at a town hall meeting with ordinary Malaysian citizens. Clinton also met with national leaders including Foreign Minister Anifah Aman. At the town hall, Clinton praised Malaysia for its dynamism and urged it to stick to its traditional moderate roots. She also urged the country to keep the political arena open to all its citizens.

Also Tuesday, Clinton was assured by Malaysian officials that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will receive a fair trial on sodomy charges. Earlier, Clinton called for the charges against Anwar to be handled "fairly and transparently." Foreign Minister Anifah Aman replied at a joint news conference that it is in Malaysia's own interest to see that the trial is fair.

Anwar, who was tried once before on similar grounds, claims the charges are politically motivated. They came after his party made unprecedented gains in elections in 2008.

Clinton had been expected to meet Anwar while she is in Malaysia, but that did not happen. She did say the U.S. is watching his case closely.

Malaysia is the fourth stop on Clinton's 2-week, 7-country tour, which has already taken her to Vietnam, China and Cambodia. She is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Malaysia, apart from international conferences, since Warren Christopher in 1995.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that Clinton's meetings in Kuala Lumpur reflect the importance of U.S. engagement with the region. It said Washington seeks cooperation with Malaysia on issues including trade, science, education, Afghanistan and non-proliferation.

Clinton and Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Seri Dr. Maximus Johnity Ongkili, were to sign an agreement promising cooperation on such challenges as food security and global climate change.

Clinton completes her tour with visits to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.