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Friday, Sept 11
Malaysia's opposition Islamic party welcomes public support for Anwar

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 (AFP) - The head of Malaysia's opposition Islamic party has said he welcomes the display of public support for ousted deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim as it heralds increasing awareness of the need for change.

''Non-government organisations working together with Anwar to carry out reforms is a positive development,'' president Fadzil Mohamad Noor told the Friday edition of Harakah, the twice-weekly newspaper of Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS).

''This marks increasing awareness among those who love the country and justice. The most important thing at this stage is to convince the people that we need to change and reform,'' the PAS president said.

Fadzil, whose party controls the northeastern state of Kelantan, said it was too early to tell how PAS would cooperate with Anwar's supporters.

''How PAS will work with this reform movement in the future, in elections or other fields, is something we cannot tell at this stage,'' he said.

''But PAS will give them the opportunity to implement reforms and they themselves will decide on the programs.''

Fadzil, who visited Anwar at his house last week, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had the right to fire whoever he liked.

''But the people need to be given convincing and real reasons as to why a deputy prime minister was sacked at a time when the country is going through an economic crisis,'' he said.

Although no formal charges have been laid, Anwar has been accused of sexual impropriety, jeopardising national security, bribery, interfering with police investigations, tampering with evidence, abuse of power and sedition.

Anwar alleges that the charges were all part of a high-level conspiracy but Mahathir has merely said that Anwar is ''unsuitable'' to hold office and that his decision was based on ''moral'' grounds rather than being politically motivated.

''The reason given is extraordinary,'' Fadzil said. ''It is seen as an effort to destroy not only Anwar's political career but also the reputation of his entire family. This is a very serious action that has been taken against Anwar its is also against the rules of Islam and justice.''

Fadzil said it was too early to tell if the dismissal would boost support for PAS. But he noted that support was growing anyway, as shown by a recent by-election where the Islamic opposition party defeated the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) in what was previous a ruling party stronghold.

''The dismissal of Anwar has just taken place and we cannot tell whether it has increased public support for PAS.

''But the public support for Anwar is obvious,'' he said.

Anwar was a radical Moslem student in his youth and founded the Islamic Youth Movement, which has strongly denounced Anwar's dismissal.