Malaysia PM Mahathir suggests he could stay in office beyond 2020

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he wanted to fix problems created by the previous government before resigning. PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested on Saturday (Dec 14) he may seek to stay in power after 2020.

Asked at the Doha Forum in Qatar if he would step down in 2020, he said he wanted to fix problems created by the previous government before resigning. He also said he could not guarantee who would succeed him as prime minister.

Tun Dr Mahathir promised on Dec 10 to hand over power to his anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim, in spite of new sexual assault allegations against him, and that he may hand over power after a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) countries that Malaysia is to host in November 2020.

Dr Mahathir was unexpectedly elected in 2018 as the head of a coalition government whose largest party is led by Mr Anwar, 72, who has been jailed twice on separate counts of sodomy and for corruption - charges he said were politically driven.

Dr Mahathir also said at the forum that US economic sanctions against Iran are illegal and Malaysia does not support them. The curbs, he said, have constrained Malaysia's access to an important market and trading partner.

The US has imposed sanctions on Iran for what it considers the Persian Gulf country's aggressive and destabilising policies in the region.

Iran and US allies such as Saudi Arabia are engaged in a proxy war in Yemen, and Washington blames Teheran for a surprise attack in September on Saudi oil installations.

Dr Mahathir also said that "too much politics" rather than economic logic has driven the trade dispute between the US and China.

"Trade wars do not solve anything," he said.

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the US and China agreed to the first phase of a broader agreement under which the US will reduce tariffs, calming fears at least temporarily of an escalating trade war between the world's two largest economies.

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