KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Malaysia's defense minister on Tuesday denied his country is involved in a Saudi-led military coalition against terrorism in the Middle East.
Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was responding to a report by Saudi state news saying Malaysian forces participated in a 20-nation military exercise near the Iraqi border in northern Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Press Agency called the so-called North Thunder drill, which featured coordination among sea, air and land forces, "the largest in the region's history."
"I have stated from the beginning that we are not involved militarily," Hussein reportedly said. "Military training does not mean we are directly involved in operations."
Hussein said he would not allow such a commitment on behalf of Malaysia's armed forces despite his country supporting anti-terrorism operations in doctrine.
He added he had "not seen the extent of involvement in the training" by Malaysian forces in the Saudi exercise, which began Sunday.
In December, Saudi Arabia announced it was forming a 34-nation anti-terrorism coalition made up of mainly Islamic countries, including Malaysia.
Pakistan and Lebanon also reportedly denied being members of the coalition.
Other countries named in the coalition include Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d'Ivoire, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen.
The North Thunder drill comes amid a Saudi military intervention against Shia rebels in Yemen and offers by Riyadh and the UAE to commit group troops in a U.S.-led coalition intervention inside Syria.