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New Malaysian Prime Minister Sworn Into Office


Malaysia's new prime minister, Najib Razak, freed 13 people held under security laws in his first act after taking office Friday.

The 13 men had been under indefinite detention. Critics had accused the government of using the tough Internal Security Act to silence opponents. The prime minister said his government would review that law.

He also lifted a recent ban on two opposition newspapers.

Mr. Najib took the oath of office earlier Friday in front of Malaysia's king. The ceremony was broadcast live on national television.

He is expected to announce a new Cabinet lineup next week. The new prime minister faces several challenges, including healing the country's politics, social problems and shrinking economy.

The 55-year-old British educated prime minister replaces Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Mr. Abdullah resigned on Thursday as part of a promise to step aside after leading his party to a miserable defeat in legislative elections last year.

He put Mr. Najib's name forward last year when he agreed to step aside before his term was set to end in 2010. Mr. Abdullah was widely blamed for the ruling coalition's loss of a two-thirds' majority in parliament for the first time in 40 years.

The coalition led by the United Malays National Organization has governed Malaysia since 1957.

Malaysia's new leader is seen as a protégé of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has said he expects the new prime minister to govern more firmly than Mr. Abdullah.

Earlier this week, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim warned that Malaysia could see a return of what he called Mr. Mahathir's authoritarian leadership style. Anwar pointed to signs of rising repression, such as the government's closing of two opposition newspapers for three months. One is published by the People's Justice Party and the other by the Malaysian Pan Islamic Party.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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