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Monday, Sept 14
Anwar steps up anti-Mahathir attacks as thousands flock to rallies
by Eileen Ng

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 (AFP) - Ousted deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim returned here Sunday from weekend rallies in northern Malaysia where tens of thousands heard his verbal assaults on Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar, who was stripped by Mahathir of his cabinet posts and expelled from the ruling party earlier this month, made immediate preparations for a second trip out of the capital to the southern city of Malacca.

Aides said he would arrive in Malacca late Sunday.

On Saturday, Anwar stepped up his attacks on Mahathir in speeches to tens of thousands of supporters in his home state of Penang and neighbouring Kedah.

Venturing out of the capital for the first time since his dismissal on September 2, Anwar visited his home town of Bukit Mertajam in Penang before driving 100 kilometres (60 miles) further north to Pokok Sena, where an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people gathered late Saturday night.

Cars were backed up some seven kilometres (five miles) along the jungle road leading to Pokok Sena in what was the biggest show of support since Anwar was dismissed by Mahathir as deputy premier and finance minister.

In remarks published Sunday, Mahathir vowed to ''take action'' against Anwar if he ''disrupts public order'' on his national tour to press for reform.

''But if it is peaceful, we will not take any action,'' he was quoted as saying by the New Sunday Times.

Mahathir also asserted that ruling party members who had sided with Anwar would eventually be swayed once the case against him goes to court.

''Up to now, they still don't believe what we have said. But in the end when there is a trial, a lot of things will be exposed and then they will believe us. The truth will prevail,'' he reportedly said.

''Those who don't want to believe are only deceiving themselves,'' Mahathir said, indicating that police had sufficient evidence against Anwar.

Although he has yet to be charged, the 51-year-old Anwar faces allegations ranging from sexual impropriety, bribery and jeopardising national security to interfering with police investigations, abuse of power and sedition.

Mahathir, 73, has not yet given a full explanation for the dismissal of his former protege, merely saying that he was ''unsuitable'' to hold office and that his decision to fire Anwar was based on moral grounds.

Anwar, who says the allegations are part of a high-level conspiracy, has strongly denied suggestions of immoral conduct.

''Those who say this should first look at their own reflection in the mirror,'' he told an estimated 10,000 supporters outside his family home on Saturday.

''The more he criticises me, the more people people come to listen to me.''

Although he did not mention the prime minister by name, Anwar accused Mahathir of monopolising power to the benefit of his children while impoverishing the Malaysian people.

''The world is big enough for everyone's needs but not enough for everyone's greed,'' the former finance minister said.

He also asserted that local Chinese-language newspapers were ''more liberal'' than the Malay-language press, where two pro-Anwar editors were recently forced to resign. ''Leaders are afraid the Malays will wake up to the truth,'' he said.

Supporters of Anwar are meanwhile demanding a fuller explanation.

''If Anwar is guilty, he should be charged in court,'' said one man attending the Bukit Mertajam rally with his two sons.

In a reference to Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act which provides for detention without trial, he said: ''Many people are afraid to talk about the case because of the traditional tight controls.''

A 35-year-old ethnic-Chinese engineer in Bukit Mertajam agreed.

''The best thing for them to do is to go to court. Sacking the deputy prime minister affects the image of our country. The government owes us an explanation,'' he said.