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When the government of Malaysia sought to repair its tarnished image in the U.S. by arranging a meeting between President Bush and its controversial prime minister in 2002, it followed the same strategy as many other well-heeled interests in Washington: It called on lobbyist Jack Abramoff for help.
It was a tall order. The then-prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, had been chastised by the Clinton administration for repeated anti-Semitic statements and for jailing political opponents. But it was important to the Malaysians, according to a former Abramoff associate who attended meetings with the Malaysian ambassador and the lobbyist.
Abramoff contacted presidential advisor Karl Rove on at least four occasions to help arrange a meeting, the witness said.
In May 2002, Mahathir met with Bush in the Oval Office; his photograph with the president was beamed around the world.
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