FOCUS-Anwar's lawyers say tape points to plot
                                 01:41 a.m. Dec 23, 1998 Eastern

                                 By K. Baranee Krishnaan

                                 KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 (Reuters) - The defence in the sex and corruption trial
                                 of sacked finance minister Anwar Ibrahim said on Wednesday it has an audio tape
                                 supporting Anwar's argument he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

                                 Defence counsel Gurbachan Singh read to the capital's High Court portions of a
                                 transcript of the tape which he said recorded the voice of Ummi Hafilda Ali, the
                                 woman who in 1997 accused Anwar of sex crimes and who was on the witness

                                 Gurbachan told the court the tape was a recording of a conversation between Ummi
                                 and a male business associate named Sng Chee Hue in London last June.

                                 On the tape, a woman's voice discusses Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, saying
                                 he had congratulated the author of a book, ``Fifty Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim
                                 Cannot Become Prime Minister,'' which accused Anwar of numerous crimes.

                                 ``I put it to you this was said by you to Dato Sng,'' Gurbachan said to Ummi, who
                                 was on the witness stand for the third day. Ummi, looking pale, said she did not
                                 remember the conversation.

                                 Judge Augustine Paul said he would decide on Thursday whether to allow the tape to
                                 be admitted as evidence in the trial, which has exposed deep divisions between
                                 supporters of Mahathir and Anwar.

                                 The book ``Fifty Reasons,'' written by a former journalist named Khalid Jafri, was
                                 distributed to delegates attending the annual general assembly of Mahathir's political
                                 party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), last June.

                                 The book thrust into the open allegations of sex crimes by Anwar and deepened a rift
                                 between Mahathir and his then deputy.

                                 Anwar was sacked on September 2 and arrested 18 days later after leading 30,000
                                 protesters through the capital calling on Mahathir to step down after 17 years in

                                 Mahathir has called Anwar morally unfit. The former minister has said some of the
                                 prime minister's closest associates, fearful that Anwar would come to power and
                                 expose cronyism, plotted to topple him.

                                 The exerpts which Gurbachan read to the court suggested the author of the book had
                                 been paid a large amount of money and had promised Mahathir he would ``kill''
                                 Anwar's political career.

                                 The defence lawyer did not say how the tape had been obtained.

                                 A written transcript of the tape distributed later to reporters covering the High Court
                                 trial said the conversation was between a woman and a man.

                                 ``The writer, I don't know who paid the writer...but I know one million. I don't know
                                 whether it is from Tun or they shared,'' the woman said, according to the transcript.

                                 ``'I don't want Anwar Ibrahim to be our next future leader,' he (Khalid) said. 'No
                                 way,' he said. 'I (Khalid) promised to myself, I promised to PM, this is my
                                 responsibility to kill his career,''' the woman continued.

                                 ``I got it 30 minutes ago from PM's department. From this man saying that,
                                 congratulations Encik Khalid, you have done a great job, go ahead, waiting for the
                                 moment the eyes will see him in court and drag everybody in court,'' the woman said.

                                 ``Then the whole thing explodes, the whole nation will know who is Anwar Ibrahim.
                                 That is their intention,'' the voice said.

                                 In a separate development on Wednesday, a Kuala Lumpur court dismissed a suit by
                                 Anwar challenging his sacking by Mahathir, the official Bernama news agency said.

                                 The capital's High Court rejected Anwar's claim that Mahathir had violated the
                                 constitution by allegedly failing to obtain the king's consent before sacking the former