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'Curious friend' US has every right to demand explanation, says Anwar on duo's trip over money flows to 'terrorists'

The prime minister was asked if Malaysia's pro-Palestinian stance would affect relations with Washington.

2 minute read
Anwar Ibrahim says the US has the right to demand explanation from his government on alleged money flows to entities labeled as 'terrorists'.
Anwar Ibrahim says the US has the right to demand explanation from his government on alleged money flows to entities labeled as 'terrorists'.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim sidestepped the question of whether Malaysia's ties with Palestinian resistance group Hamas would affect relations with the US, saying instead that Malaysia has good economic ties with the US, and that he respects Washington's right to question his government over alleged violations of US-imposed sanctions against Iran and other entities labelled as "terrorists".

"I make it very clear that we are very strong in our relationship with China, I don't subscribe to Sinophobia, we have been traditiyonal allies, and most of the investments in the US is still coming.... Germany of course... new investors from the Middle East... Qatar... but from the US... Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, all there, and coming in an agreesive manner to Malaysia, and we welcome them," he said when questioned on his meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar recently.

Anwar was speaking to Bloomberg during a session at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha yesterday.

When pressed again on US concerns about money flows to Hamas allegedly involving Malaysia, Anwar said there was no evidence of this, but quickly added that his relations with Hamas only with its political wing.

"I have no involvement, no discussion with the military appratus, that's very clear," said Anwar.

"They (the US) of course have every right to demand or request for explanation. We do it to a friend who is curious to know what's happening," he said.

The remarks appear to be more cautious than Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution's statement that Malaysia is not obliged to abide by unilateral sanctions that have not been authorised by the United Nations.

This came after the US dispatched two Treasury  officials to warn Malaysia to halt all trade and transactions with "terrorist" entities as defined by Washington.

Undersecretary for Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson and Treasury general-counsel Neil MacBride held talks with Saifuddin, MPs and other officials, where Malaysia reportedly "took note" of the US' concerns.

MalaysiaNow reported earlier quoting diplomatic sources that the visit was meant to send a strong message by the US to warn leaders it regards as allies to toe the line.

One former diplomat said such a trip would not have taken place during the rule of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, known for his strong stance on Israel and its Western supporters.

"He would have told them literally to go fly a kite, so that before any discussion took place, these officials would know they stand no chance of bullying a close ally," he said.

Speaking to the media later, Anwar admitted there was "anxiety from friends in the West" over his meeting Haniyeh, and reiterated that he had no links to Hamas' military wing.

"So this is what we explained and I believe our friends will raise (the fact) that there is no reason why we cannot have that discussion because Malaysia is a free country," he qas quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

"Hamas has the right to defend territories occupied by foreign powers, but we take the approach of supporting peaceful efforts to connect with the political body of Hamas and not get involved in any military activities."