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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Mahathir to retire from politics
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, left, with his deputy Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Mahathir, left, is due to hand power to his deputy, right
The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who is due to step down next year, has said he will not contest the next general election, due in 2004.

Correspondents say this is the strongest indication yet that he will retire completely from politics next year.

Dr Mahathir, who has led Malaysia since 1981, announced in June that he would step down as prime minister from October next year.

But until his latest comments, reported by national news agency Bernama on Friday, he had not ruled out running for parliament.

In July he said: "I will think about it when the time comes."

Timetable for change

According to a succession plan announced in June, Dr Mahathir will hand over power to his Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He will also retire as head of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

Malaysians were stunned at the news that Dr Mahathir was bowing out of office after 21 years in power. Even his family had reportedly been unaware of his intentions

Dr Mahathir will step down after he hosts the summit meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Malaysia in October 2003.

At some stage before that he will take two months of leave in order to hand over to his deputy.

Dr Mahathir is Asia's longest-serving elected leader. Throughout his rule he has taken a tough stand against those who oppose him or threaten his power.

He has increasingly kept a tight rein on his government, especially since 1998 when he sacked his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim amid speculation that a leadership challenge was pending.

Anwar was subsequently convicted of sodomy and corruption charges, which he claims were fabricated to remove him from the political scene. He is serving 15 years in prison.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kean Wong
"Malaysians are slowly coming to terms with their veteran leader's retirement plans"
See also:

03 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Apr 02 | Country profiles
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