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ARKIB : 30/05/2004

PM on why Sri Lankan businessman held under ISA

ABDULLAH Ahmad Badawi (L) listens to Chinese President Hu Jintao during a meeting in the Fujian room at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 29. - Reuterspix.

Beijing May 29 - Sri Lankan businessman B.S.A Tahir, accused by Washington of selling illicit nuclear technology, was detained under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA) because his case warrants the use of ISA, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said here Saturday night.

Malaysia's Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Noh Omar announced earlier Saturday Tahir's detention for two years under the ISA for being a threat to the country's security and economy.

Answering questions at a press conference here, Abdullah said when reports about Tahir's activities first came to light in February, investigations carried out by the Malaysian police then did not provide sufficient evidence to detain him.

Tahir had been the subject of continuing investigations for the police to discover new facts and some new developments, said Abdullah, who is on a five-day visit to China.

Abdullah, who is also the Internal Security Minister, said at the time reports were first made on Tahir, there was no reason to arrest him on the basis of evidence available then.

"It's the opinion of the security people that he should now be detained. Action has already been taken to detain him under the ISA," he said of Tahir who was picked up in Kuala Lumpur Friday.

Noh had said that Tahir had secretly used Malaysia as the base for his operations to deceive a Malaysian company, Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn Bhd, to produce centrifuge components, purportedly for the gas and petroleum industry in Dubai, but which were actually intended for a uranium enrichment programme in Libya.

He said Tahir was involved in a secret international nuclear proliferation network, particularly in Libya and his activities had risked Malaysia to economic sanctions and attacks by the world's superpowers.

Turning to another development, Abdullah said he was pleased that the various factions in Iraq had accepted Iyad Allawi as the country's prime minister-designate when power was scheduled to be handed over to the people of Iraq on June 30.

"I'm happy that at least the Iraqis are of one mind to accept this one person to be their prime minister," he said.

Abdullah said in his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao here Saturday, they shared the same view that the sovereignty of the war-ravaged country must be returned to the Iraqi people.

"It must be the full sovereignty and that the people of Iraq should have a say on the issues affecting the security and future of their country," he said.

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