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Longtime leader to retire

The week's news at a glance.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dismayed the country this week with his tearful, surprise announcement of plans to resign. Mahathir, 76, said he would step down late next year. In his 21 years in power, Mahathir transformed his country from a poor supplier of raw materials to a rich manufacturer of electronics. Malaysia is now one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, and has many of the world’s tallest buildings. Mahathir has also positioned himself as a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. But he’s used his popularity to carve out more power for himself over the past two decades than any previous prime minister, and he’s used internal security laws to stifle dissent and political competition. Elections aren’t scheduled till 2004, but the current deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, will begin to take over from Mahathir shortly before he steps down.

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