Foreign leader forced to defend golf with Obama

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday was forced to defend his recent golf outing with President Obama after coming under fire back home. 

Razak golfed with Obama in Hawaii on Wednesday, triggering an outcry in Malaysia, which is contending with floods that have forced more than 100,000 people from their homes. 

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Obama himself often comes under criticism from opponents for his frequent golf outings, but now most of the scrutiny is on his golfing companion, the prime minister. 

After touring the flooded areas on Saturday, Najib said at a news conference that golfing with Obama was "golf diplomacy," according to state news agency Bernama. 

Obama travelled to Malaysia in April, and Najib said the golf outing was long planned. 

"Actually, during President Obama's visit to Malaysia, he had said that if coincidentally I were in Hawaii together with him, he would like to play golf with me," Najib said.

"Every day when I was there, I received the latest report on the flood situation," he added. "As it became more serious, I decided to return to the country as soon as possible and went directly to Kota Baharu [the affected region]. I have not even returned home yet."

Najib cut short his trip on Friday to return to Malaysia amid headlines such as the Malaysia Chronicle's "Stop Playing Golf, Najib," which appeared above images of the flooding and of Najib on the golf course with Obama.

"The President and Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia enjoyed golf together today," a White House official said on Wednesday after the outing.

"The two leaders took the opportunity to discuss the growing and warming relationship between the United States and Malaysia," the official added. "The President said he looked forward to working with Prime Minister Najib in 2015, during Malaysia's chair year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations."

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