US aide Susan Rice to meet Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 1:32am


The top White House national security aide Susan Rice will meet Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim when Barack Obama's regional tour reaches Malaysia, a senior US official.

Obama is set to arrive in the Malaysian capital today in what will be the first visit to the country by a sitting US president in nearly half a century.

But he faces a political balancing act. He will be keen not to alienate his hosts and a key Southeast Asian ally. However, Washington has made clear its disquiet about the revival of long-term charges against Anwar and a deteriorating political situation.

Anwar, who was convicted of sodomy in March and whose opposition is engaged in a fierce political battle with Malaysia's longtime government, had been told that Obama would not be able to see him personally. But the decision to make national security adviser Rice available will send a clear signal, as she is the most senior foreign policy official other than the president on Obama's four-nation Asian tour.

Anwar said he was not upset he would not get time with Obama, but said such an encounter would have been "consistent with US democratic ideals and its foreign policy of promoting freedom and justice".

The US has expressed concerns about what it says are politically motivated charges to keep Ibrahim out of politics. In March, a Malaysian Court of Appeal overturned Anwar's 2012 acquittal on sodomy charges, finding him guilty of having had sex with a former male aide in 2008 and sentencing him to five years in jail. He remains free pending an appeal.