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Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat today dismissed suggestions that he was now reversing his earlier stand and supporting moves to bring about closer cooperation between PAS and Umno, saying that he only wanted to improve ties between the PAS-ruled state government and the federal government. His remarks will put to rest renewed concerns among Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partners that PAS was once again reviving the unity talks idea which had caused a severe split in the federal opposition alliance and even within the Islamist party.

“I proposed the relationship between the two governments to be improved in line with the spirit of federalism,” Nik Aziz said in a statement today. He said that his statement made at the launch of Kelantan Fiesta 2009 last Friday on improving the relationship had been misinterpreted. The PAS spiritual adviser said he only wanted the federal government to fulfil its responsibilities towards the state and he was willing to take steps bring the two governments closer together. He added that the federal government had to resolve the outstanding issues involving Kelantan, including the state's demand for oil royalty, federal financial grants and development projects in the state.

The state government is demanding the national oil company Petronas pay it more than RM1 billion for oil and gas extracted off Kelantan shores. Kelantan's demands for oil royalty and other federal grants have long been a contentious issue with PAS frequently accusing the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal administration of depriving the state of development funds in order to win back political support for Umno, which lost control of the state in 1990. Umno has also been taking advantage of the split in PAS over the recent unity talks proposal to rock the PR alliance in an effort to win back Malay voters lost to PR parties in last year's general election.

Since Nik Aziz's call for better federal-state ties last week, Umno leaders have stepped up the rhetoric to praise the PAS spiritual leader, who retains considerable influence in the party because of his religious credentials and reputation for being incorruptible. Umno is hoping to spark debate once again on the subject of Malay unity within PAS. But Nik Aziz scoff at suggestions made by a number of Umno leaders that he was now backing such talks which he had strongly opposed previously. “This is not party matters. I am not interested in getting the parties together, that is a separate matter,” said Nik Aziz today.

Nik Aziz, who has been the strongest critic of attempts by the conservative faction in PAS to explore political cooperation with Umno, said his stand on the matter remained unchanged. He said Umno leaders had overreacted to his statement. “This is Umno's game, it does not come from PAS,” he added.


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