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Malaysia's PM hopes to forge a united nation

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Scandals and political rivalries
  • Najib Razak is Malaysia's 6th Prime Minster and son of a former PM
  • Refutes suggestions that criminal charge against opposition leader is politically motivated
  • Hopes to create global movement of moderates to counter religious fundamentalism

Watch the full Talk Asia show with Najib Razak on Wednesday, Nov 3, 12.30; Thursday Nov 4, 03.30; Saturday, Nov 6, 11.00, 19.30; Sunday Nov 7, 08.30, 18.30 (All times GMT)

(CNN) -- Politics is in the blood of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak.

His father was the country's second prime minister, and his uncle, the third. Najib has continued the political dynasty with a career in politics and became his country's leader in 2009.

In Malaysia's multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, he has presided over some flash points since taking office, most recently the violent response earlier this year by Muslim fundamentalists to a court ruling that allowed Christians to use the word Allah.

Pursuing a policy to strengthen national unity, called "1Malaysia," he thinks that, contrary to what many commentators believe, multi-culturalism is working in a country where affirmative action laws were enacted in 1971.

Video: Malaysia's PM on Myanmar
There's a problem between the moderates and the extremists of each religion.
--Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia

"In spite of the huge diversity in Malaysia in terms of religion, culture, race, ethnicity and so forth, we've really gone very far in developing this country," he told CNN. "And I'm confident this journey for Malaysia to become a fully developed nation, high-income nation, by 2020 is doable."

Malaysia has seen 7 percent economic growth this year, but the possibility of a "brain drain" of skilled and talented Malaysians going abroad has prompted Najib and his government to address a growing problem.

"We have recognized it [as a problem]. There's going to be huge change in government policies in this regard," he said, and indicated an announcement on the issue will be made later this month.

On China and India's role in the region he is phlegmatic: "I don't see them as threatening the region. They will increase their influence, of course, using more of their economic clout to influence events in the region... So I think both countries are important to Malaysia, and we have a large community of Malaysian Chinese as well as Malaysian Indians."

While Najib represents the continuity in the top echelons of Malaysian politics, more recent scandals have gained international headlines.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is facing trial for sodomy charges, a crime that he was charged with in 1998. Al Gore has called the recent charge a threat "to all those in Malaysia who have struggled for a freer and more democratic nation."

Other commentators have suggested it is politically motivated, which Najib refutes.

"It's not our choice. And we didn't plan for this. It so happened that his own employee made a criminal complaint against him," said Najib. "We're willing to compete against anyone. You know, this is a democracy. So let it be, the best party, chosen by the people, will form the government."

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, Najib proposed a global movement of moderates, in part to counter the growing problem of Islamophobia.

"I am concerned if 25 percent of Americans think that President Obama is a Muslim. I mean it's obviously a lack of knowledge. But also, it's for the Muslims as well, you know, because a small numbers of Muslims have really painted a very negative image of Islam," he said.

"It's a problem between the moderates and the extremists of each religion and if the moderates can have a much stronger voice, then there is every chance that we will find resolution to many of the world's problems."