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Malaysian Leader Stepping Down

June 22, 2002

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Shocking his country, Malaysia’s longtime prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, announced Saturday that he was stepping down from all positions in the government and ruling party.

The news was greeted with disbelief and chants of ``Mahathir! Mahathir!″ at the annual congress of the ruling United Malays National Organization, where Mahathir was giving his closing speech.

``I wish to announce I am resigning from UMNO and all positions in the National Front,″ the coalition government that UNMO leads, Mahathir told the delegates, his voice choked with emotion.

Mahathir did not specifically say that he was stepping down as prime minister, the office he has held for 21 years, but that appeared to be the case.