THE United States has become a whipping boy in a concerted Malaysian campaign to force a review of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a move which Washington opposes. It has also become a target of recrimination due to Malaysia's campaign against the American financier George Soros. Such developments have taken the gloss off the apparent success Washington scored this week at meetings linked to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), where the Americans pursued a policy of praising the group while emphasising Burma's unfitness to be a member. It has also highlighted the often uneasy relationship between the US and Malaysia, whose Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, seems torn between a desire to attract US investors and distaste for American society and its 'uncouth' Western ways. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright criticised Burmese policies at the ASEAN Regional Forum and Post-Ministerial Conferences, which followed the annual meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers. Officials welcomed her kind words for ASEAN. But the intervention of Dr Mahathir put the US on the defensive following his claim Mr Soros engineered the Asian currency crisis to punish ASEAN members for admitting Burma to their ranks. Dr Mahathir continued to denounce Mr Soros after the talks, and a group linked to the ruling National Front tried unsuccessfully to deliver a letter against the financier to the US Embassy. Earlier, Dr Mahathir's proposal to seek a review of the human rights declaration prompted a debate on the issue at the final ASEAN press conference, where US Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Stuart Eizenstat was forced to concede the last word to Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. A day later, Dr Mahathir said he would be seeking the help of Malaysia's 'friends' for a review of the declaration and accused the US of not practising the form of human rights it preached. Malaysia and other ASEAN states claim too much freedom can be bad for democracy in certain countries. In Singapore, on her way home, Ms Albright angered Malaysians by belittling Dr Mahathir as 'a case of his own' while praising the island republic's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for his 'strategic vision'. Dr Mahathir said only that it was her right to say what she had said. But analysts noted that he has a long memory when it comes to perceived insults.