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Paying to meet US Leaders 'Practice': Mahathir

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has confirmed that a sum of money was paid to arrange a meeting between him and US President George Bush in May 2002 when he was still in office, saying this was a common American practice.

Paying to meet US Leaders 'Practice': Mahathir

"I understood some people paid a sum of money to lobbyists in America but I do not know who these people were and it was not the Malaysian government," he told reporters Monday, February 20, reported the official Bernama news agency.

Mahathir said his meeting with Bush was arranged by the Heritage Foundation, a renowned US think tank, and aimed at discussing issues related to US foreign policies.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the Malaysian government paid money to American lobbyist Jack Abramoff to arrange the meeting.

Citing anonymous witness, it said Abramoff had contacted presidential advisor Karl Rove at least four occasions to arrange a meeting.

The White House maintains that the meeting was arranged through normal channels and repeatedly denied it had any dealings with Abramoff.

Earlier this year, Republican lobbyist Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion. He admitted to corrupting government officials and defrauding his own clients of $25million.

Normal Practice

Republican lobbyist Abramoff has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion.

Mahathir said it was normal for the US government to ask people who want to meet the president to use the services of lobbyists and this was not viewed as a form of corruption.

"In the US, it is a practice that if you want to meet their leader, you have to go through a lobbyist and the lobbyist has to be paid.

"That is their system. It is not corruption at all and it is very open, but they don't reveal names," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

He said he agreed to have the meeting with Bush upon the urging of the Heritage Foundation.

"They said I would be able to influence (Bush) in some way regarding his policies.

"Secondly, it would be good for Malaysia if the relationship between the two countries improved, and I agreed with that. I thought I could do something good for the country."

Since 2000, the number of lobbyists in Washington DC has doubled to over 34,750, The Washington Post reported recently.

It asserted that the amount the lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent.

Experts say the lobbying boom has been caused by rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and widespread acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure federal benefits.

Source: Islamonline.net

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