Olympic flame arrives in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The Olympic flame arrived in Malaysia on Sunday ahead of a relay in which it will be guarded by 1,000 police watching for protests against China's Tibet crackdown and human rights record.

The flame arrived from Bangkok on a plane dedicated to carry it to all 19 international destinations on the torch relay before it lands in Beijing for the Olympic Games' opening ceremony in August.

A Buddhist group held special prayers Sunday at a temple in Kuala Lumpur to call for a trouble-free run of the torch Monday and a peaceful Olympics.

Some 300 Chinese students studying in Malaysia greeted the flame at the airport along with representatives from the National Sports Council and the police, a statement from Olympic Council of Malaysia said.

"Malaysia takes this opportunity to reiterate that the Beijing Olympics should not be politicized and remains confident that the Olympics will be successfully held in August 2008," Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said in a statement.

The flame was taken to a luxury hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur ahead of Monday's relay run starting at nearby Independence Square.

Its 10-mile route will highlight various landmarks, including the top of the Kuala Lumpur Tower, a telecommunications installation that provides a scenic aerial view of the city.

Protests in other cities have triggered an unprecedented security detail for the Malaysian leg.

Some 1,000 policemen and commandos will be deployed along the route even though police have not received reports of any planned protests, said a police spokesman, who declined to be named citing protocol. The relay through Bangkok on Saturday was unmarred by demonstrations.

Growing criticism of China's human rights record has turned the Olympics into one of the most contentious in recent history.

China's recent crackdown in Tibet - which forcefully put down sometimes-violent demonstrations against Beijing's rule over the Himalayan region - has triggered protests and attempted disruptions of the torch relay in Paris, London and San Francisco.

On Friday, about 30 Falun Gong practitioners demonstrated in Kuala Lumpur, calling for an end to alleged Chinese human rights abuses ahead of the Beijing Olympics. China has banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement as a dangerous cult.

In Japan Sunday, a major Japanese Buddhist temple with graffiti, days after it withdrew a plan to host the torch relay in Nagano, police said. Nagano police were investigating the incident and trying to determine whether it was related to the temple's decision to pull out of the event.

Zenkoji Temple was slated as the starting point for the Japan leg of the Olympic torch relay on Saturday. The temple, however, changed its mind Friday, citing security concerns and sympathy for Tibetan protesters facing a Chinese crackdown.

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