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June 14, 2008

Abdullah to step down

Malaysia's embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi confirmed on Friday he would step down, just three months after winning office, ending a leadership crisis sparked by the coalition's worst ever election result, reported Reuters.

Abdullah, who had been widely expected to hand power to his anointed successor, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, however did not spell out the timing of the transition.

"Datuk Seri Najib and I have decided on the right time for me to hand over the premiership to him. We have no problems and we enjoy good working relations," state news agency Bernama quoted Abdullah as telling government officials in the northeastern state of Kelantan.

"The leadership change will definitely take place at the right time," he added. Uncertainties about when Abdullah would hand over power to Najib, together with a steep rise in fuel prices, have raised Malaysia's political risks in investors' eyes, analysts say.

Abdullah has faced mounting public anger since ordering a steep increase in fuel prices in line with a global surge in oil prices, which touched a record $139 a barrel last week. The measure will drive Malaysia's inflation rate to a 10-year high of 4.2 percent in 2008.

But on Friday, a protest opposition supporters hoped would draw 20,000 people managed to draw only several hundred.

"Down with PM, long live the people," the protesters, mostly young Malays, shouted as they left a mosque in a poor part of Kuala Lumpur after noon prayers and headed to the iconic Petronas Towers in the city centre to underline anger against the state energy giant.

The protest ended peacefully after police prevented the activists from marching to the city centre and they dispersed at the headquarters of the Islamist opposition party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) party, one of the organisers.

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