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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Mahathir sets retirement date

By Jonathan Kent
BBC, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced that he will step down on 31 October.

It's the first time he's given a specific date for his retirement.

Dr Mahathir, who is Asia's longest-serving democratically-elected leader, told reporters that though he is still healthy, he had been prime minister for too long.

Mahathir Mohamad
Dr M, as Mahathir is known, first tried to resign last year
There are plenty of Malaysians who still cannot quite believe that the man who has led them for 22 years is really going to retire.

An entire generation here has no memory of anyone else in charge.

Dr Mahathir tried to quit in June last year, but the tearful prime minister was dragged back from the brink by delegates at his party's annual conference and he agreed to stay on for a further 16 months.

There are many in Malaysia who would like him to continue, even now.

'Credibility at stake'

But for them Dr Mahathir had a clear message: It's time I move on and pass the job onto someone else, he said, adding that his credibility was at stake.

(Europeans) are very clever, brave and have an insatiable curiosity... unfortunately they are also very greedy and like to take forcibly the territories and rights of other people
Dr Mahathir

The prime minister has been increasingly outspoken in recent months, even by his own blunt standards, vehemently attacking Washington over the war in Iraq and recently calling for the permanent members of the UN Security Council to give up their right of veto.

It has given rise to speculation that he will seek an international role after he retires.

However last week he signalled that he would not be seeking the post of secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference when he hosts its summit outside Kuala Lumpur next month.

Dr Mahathir has promised to hand over the reins to his deputy and anointed successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Malaysia eyes life after Mahathir
04 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
08 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Profile: Mahathir Mohamad
22 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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