Obama raises rights concerns with Malaysia PM

US president tells activists they should not see his decision not to meet with Anwar Ibrahim as a “lack of concern”.

Barack Obama, the US president, has said that he raised the issue of human rights with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak during his visit to the country.

Human rights groups have been urging the US leader to meet with opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, during his two-day trip.

Ibrahim was recently convicted on sodomy charges that the US and human rights groups say are politically motivated.

Obama said that not meeting Ibrahim personally does not indicate a lack of concern.

Instead of meeting the dissident, the US president is sending his national security advisor Susan Rice to meet Ibrahim on Monday.

He added that Razak would be the first to admit his country has work to do on civil liberties and political reform but the US does too, the AP news agency reported.

Obama was speaking at a news conference on Sunday after meeting privately with the prime minister. 

The trip to Malaysia by Obama was the first by a US president since Lyndon B Johnson in 1966.

MH370 lessons

Malaysia is the third stop in Obama’s four-nation tour of Asia. The country has been in the international spotlight after a Malaysia Airline’s plane went missing in March.

Obama said he and Razak had “learned lessons” in the wake of the disappearance of flight MH370. 

The US president added that the country will continue to provide Malaysia with help in locating the missing airliner, which has not been seen since it left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing seven weeks ago.

The US has sent its navy to a search zone in the southern Indian Ocean, while submersible drones have been scanning the ocean floor for any sign of the plane.

Obama called the operation a “very challenging effort” and said it would take some time before the airliner was found, the Reuters news agency reported.

The Malaysian government has faced criticism in China for its perceived mismanagement of the search. The Boeing 777 was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese citizens, when it went missing. 

Obama has defended the Malaysian authorities saying they had been “fully forthcoming” in disclosing information about the flight.

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