Malaysia's Mahathir calls deputy Anwar Ibrahim homosexual

Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad on Friday rejected a demand by his one-time deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, to apologize and pay US$26.7 million (Ђ22 million) in damages for calling him a homosexual.

"Our client does not accede to any of the demands (by Anwar) ... and will vigorously defend the proceedings against him which your client has threatened to commence," said a letter by Mahathir's lawyer, V. Kanagalingam, to Anwar's lawyer, S.N. Nair.

The response sets the stage for another round of legal battle between the two former politicians, who were once close friends and colleagues but became bitter foes in an ugly and sordid battle for power eight years ago. Nair said he has informed Anwar about the letter.

Anwar was deputy prime minister under Mahathir when their relationship began to crack in early 1998 after Anwar became vocal about government corruption. Mahathir fired Anwar in September of that year, accusing him of being a homosexual.

Once seen as a future prime minister, Anwar was subsequently arrested, tried for alleged corruption and sodomy, and sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison. A successful appeal in the Federal Court against the sodomy charge set him free last year. He had already served a separate sentence for corruption, reports the AP. I.L.

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