SINGAPORE, Aug 21 (Reuter) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has renewed his attack on U.S. based-financier George Soros in the latest issue of FORTUNE, the magazine said in a statement on Thursday. FORTUNE said that in a recent interview, Mahathir repeated his claim, first made about a month ago at the height of speculative attacks that hit all major southeast Asian currencies, that Soros was involved in the currency selling.
"We have definite information that he (Soros) is involved. Of course he is not the only one. . .but he started it,'' Mahathir was quoted saying.
"He had this idea that by applying pressure on Thailand and Malaysia he could prevent Myanmar from joining ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations),'' Mahathir said.
Soros has previously denied such accusations, saying that during June and July, barring $10 million in sales of the Thai baht, his group did not sell any other regional currency.
But in the FORTUNE interview, due to hit the newstands on August 25, Mahathir claims, "He (Soros) has wiped out billions of dollars from our economy'' by deterring foreign investors.
FORTUNE's press statement said: "Mahathir believes Soros' aim is to punish Malaysia for its support of Myanmar's ruling military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the anti-democratic activities of which Soros' New York-based Open Society Institute opposes.'' Mahathir is quoted as saying: "We believe Myanmar should be given time to make the necessary adjustments. If you want to act against the government, act against the government. . . If you apply sanctions you punish the poor for the (alleged) sins of the government.''
In the interview, Mahathir also defends the reporting on Soros by Malaysian newspapers. He is quoted as saying, "We are not anti-Semitic. . . The Arabs are also a Semitic people. But when a person of Jewish origin does this kind of thing (currency speculation), the effect is the same as when a Moslem carries out something that is akin to terrorism.''
Asked in the interview what he would say if Soros were right in front of him, Mahathir replies, "Go somewhere else.''