Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian leaders vow war against `traitorous' Anwar

AP , KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

Malaysian leaders vowed to wage political war against former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, calling him a "traitor" at the annual ruling party congress yesterday and saying there would be no room for him to mount a comeback.

The attacks underscored the determination of the United Malays National Organization (UNMO) to quickly stop any support for Anwar, who was unexpectedly freed from prison this month six years after being fired by then-leader Mahathir Mohamad and then jailed.

Hishamuddin Hussein, leader of the UMNO Youth wing, said that the tens of thousands of demonstrators Anwar had led against Mahathir had menaced this Southeast Asian country's stability and that the party should never take him back.

"UMNO Youth will never allow traitors to return to the party's fold," Hishamuddin said in a speech.

"Let us not forget that this traitor once destroyed our unity, smeared the country's image and destroyed the economy with violent street protests."

Delegates applauded in the chamber and thousands of ordinary members chanted "Yes! Yes!" as they watched on large-screen monitors set up in the convention center corridors.

"He begged for foreign intervention to fulfill his narrow political ambitions," Hishamuddin declared. "We will not allow this traitor to be given any room to destroy the party for a second time."

Asked later by reporters if UMNO Youth was declaring war on Anwar, Hishamuddin responded: "Nothing has changed. He declared war on us when he left and formed Keadilan," an opposition party headed by Anwar's wife.

Despite Anwar, the congress is expected to be a triumph for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who led the governing coalition to triumph in March elections, capturing 90 percent of the seats in Parliament. Abdullah speaks to the full congress today.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the up-and-coming UMNO Youth deputy chief and Abdullah's son-in-law, said that "lines had been drawn" in the weeks since visited Anwar just after his release, raising speculation of a secret deal between Abdullah and Anwar. Both men deny it.

"Opinions have hardened on both sides," Khairy told reporters.

"As far as we are concerned, for those who have gone against the party, there is no place for them in UMNO, and we will fight them politically," Khairy said.

Anwar, 57, was freed from prison Sept. 2 after Malaysia's highest court overturned his conviction for sodomy, sparing him at least five more years in custody.

The court later upheld a separate corruption conviction, which Anwar had already served, leaving him with a criminal record that bars him from running for office until April 2008.

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