Malaysia's main Islamic opposition party will only field candidates for the upcoming general elections who do not smoke or are willing to kick the habit, its leader said.

The Pan-Malaysia Islamic (PAS) party's spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said smoking was un-Islamic and people who smoked did not fully understand Islam, state Bernama news agency reported late Thursday.

"Some Muslims consider smoking haram (forbidden)," the elderly religious leader said.

"I prefer to choose candidates who do not smoke. By now they should understand the party's requirements that to contest in the election, they must have the characteristics of a true Islamic leader," he said.

PAS-endorsed candidates must also be teetotal non-gamblers, he said.

The party, which controls only one state in the northern heartland of Kelantan, has been trying to revamp its image after being trounced in 2004 general elections.

That loss was seen as a vote against the fundamentalist party's conservative policies which aim to turn Malaysia into a theocratic state under Islamic rule.

PAS has also tried to capture support among Malaysia's ethnic Chinese and Indian communities and urban youth.

Malaysia must hold polls by early 2009, but an election is expected to be called before then.

Analysts said PAS would struggle to gain more voters as its policies had not changed, including its aim to create an Islamic state in Malaysia.