Singapore: Singapore's outspoken former leader Lee Kuan Yew has denied calling Islam a "venomous religion" after leaked US diplomatic cables set off a furore in the multiracial city-state.

One of hundreds of cables from the US embassy in Singapore released last week by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks had Lee as describing Islam as a "venomous religion" in a 2005 meeting with then senator Hillary Clinton.

"This is false," the 87-year-old Lee, Singapore's founding prime minister and elder statesman, said in a statement on Monday.

Lee said that he looked up a foreign ministry note of the meeting, and "nowhere does it record me describing Islam as 'venomous', nor did I say anything which could have given that impression".

"I did talk about extremist terrorists like the (Southeast Asian) Jemaah Islamiyah group, and the jihadist preachers who brainwashed them. They are implacable in wanting to put down all who do not agree with them," he said.

"So their Islam is a perverted version, which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Singapore do not subscribe to," he added.

During the meeting, another US lawmaker in Clinton's party had asked Lee about "how organised terrorists were internationally", according to the leaked cable signed off by then US ambassador to Singapore Frank Lavin.

It said Lee "responded that orthodox Islam was a powerful force capable of recruiting volunteers for terrorist groups".

 

(Agencies)