"We have not issued a permit for the gathering and neither was a permit requested, so I advise all those planning a gathering not to do so as they will be severely dealt with," he was quoted as saying local media.

 

"We will cordon off the area and will deploy Federal Reserve Unit personnel there if necessary," he added.

 

Muhammad did not say what action police would take but government forces used tear gas and chemical-laced water cannon to disperse two big anti-government protests in Kuala Lumpur last year.

 

He said the organising committee had been advised to abide by the law and call off the gathering.

 

Party defiant

 

But Tian Chua, a senior party official, said the rally did not need a permit because it would be held on land owned by the Selangor state government, one of five states won by the opposition coalition in elections last month.

 

"We'll go ahead," he said. "It's our own premises."

 

Chua added that thousands of people were expected to join the rally.


Police said there were internet messages urging Anwar's supporters to turn up at the rally on the eve of the expiry of the official ban which was imposed following his being convicted of corruption.

 

Anwar was sacked in September 1998 by Mahathir Mohamad, the then prime minister, but has sought to make a political comeback and has made it clear that his ambition is to become prime minister following unprecedented gains by the opposition in elections last month.

 

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered its worst election setback in 40 years, losing its two-thirds majority in the federal parliament and losing in five of 13 state government ballots.

 

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the prime minister, is facing pressure to resign over the ruling coalition's poor showing at the polls but has so far resisted stepping down.