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Monday, Sept 21
Malaysia UMNO party says unrest not that serious

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Anti-government demonstrations and clashes with police in the Malaysian capital in the last two days were ``not that serious,'' leaders of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's party concluded on Monday.

A government official, briefing reporters on a meeting of the supreme council of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) on Monday, said the leaders had agreed that the matter was not as grave as some people feared.

``They discussed what UMNO should do to defuse this situation, but (their view was) it's not that serious,'' the official said ``More work has to be done to convince the people.''

UMNO is the standard bearer for the nations ethnic Malay majority and the main pillar in the governing coalition.

The UMNO leaders' meeting, chaired by Mahathir, was called to discuss the arrest of sacked finance minister Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday and his subsequent detention under the Internal Security Act on Monday.

Anwar was sacked from his posts as deputy prime minister and finance minister on September 2. He was sacked as UMNO's deputy president a day later.

Anwar was arrested on Sunday after leading 30,000 supporters through the streets of the capital shouting for Mahathir to step down after 17 years in power.

Some 5,000 protesters who had marched to Mahathir's official residence to call for his resignation were met by police teargas and water cannon.

On Monday, police used teargas and water cannon to disperse several thousand demonstrators who converged on a courthouse in the heart of the capital where they had expected Anwar to be arraigned.

Detectives arrested at least 50 people.

Anwar is under investigation for sodomy, treason, corruption and other crimes which he denies. Anwar's adopted brother and his speechwriter admitted in court on Saturday that they were sodomised by him.