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Saturday, Sept 12
Malaysia's Anwar speaks to grassroots supporters
By Reme Ahmad

CHEROK TO'KUN, Malaysia, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Sacked Malaysian finance minister Anwar Ibrahim went back to his village roots on Saturday to rally support and present his version of events that led to his ousting from power.

Speaking partly in his northern Penang state dialect, he told a crowd of around 5,000 gathered at the town 500 km (300 miles) form Kuala Lumpur, about a high-level conspiracy designed to topple him. He also denied the string of allegations that caused his downfall.

It was the third time Anwar had ventured out of his neighbourhood since being dismissed as deputy prime minister and finance minister on September 2.

He tried to reach the hearts of the crowd by speaking of what he had done for villagers and the poor while in office.

Speaking for an hour on a makeshift stage in front of his family home in Cherok To'Kun where he was born in 1947, Anwar repeated previous assertions that he was framed by those worried about ascendancy.

He said he was the victim of a political conspiracy by opponents who saw him as a threat to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's 17-year rule and opposed his economic policies.

''We have the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle. They don't like me so they make wild accusations,'' he told the crowd made up of ethnic Malay villagers and supporters who had travelled in a 10-car convoy from the capital earlier in the day.

The speech was interrupted by shouts of ''Reformasi" (Reform), ''Allahu Akbar'' (God is Greatest) and ''Long Live Anwar.''

On Friday, Anwar addressed agitated supporters at a mosque in central Kuala Lumpur and then visited a Moslem religious leader while Malaysia's leaders, including Mahathir and King Tuanku Ja'afar Abdul Rahman, attended the opening ceremony of the 16th Commonwealth Games.

Anwar has vowed to launch a nationwide tour to press for political reform.

He is being investigated by police over allegations of sexual misconduct, treason and other crimes which he denies. He joked with the crowd over the allegations.

''They say I have 30 prostitutes. That will surely break my back. They say I paid them 350 ringgit ($90). I was the finance minister -- don't tell me that was all that I could afford,'' he said, as his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, stood by his side.

Police have said they are close to completing the investigation and have not interfered with Anwar's movements.

Since he moved into his private home from the deputy prime minister's official residence on September 3, Anwar has addressed large crowds each evening.

Police permits are normally required for political gatherings of more than three people but Anwar has been allowed to speak without obtaining authorisation because he has delivered his speeches at his home.

Police did not intervene when Anwar addressed a crowd outside the mosque in the capital on Friday.

After visiting his village, Anwar planned to go to Alor Star, capital of Mahathir's home state of Kedah, to deliver a second speech. On Sunday, he planned to drive to Malacca, south of Kuala Lumpur, for a rally.

Anwar, who has said he might be arrested under the Internal Security Act which permits imprisonment without charges, has said he is seeking an opportunity to state his case in court.

His sacking exposed tensions within Mahathir's governing majority over economic policy and political reform.

Mahathir has said Anwar was morally unfit to serve in government and that he would be indicted when the police finish their investigation.

Anwar's trips coincided with the start of the Commonwealth Games, which run until September 21 and involve more than 4,000 athletes from 70 countries.