Malaysia's Mahathir recovering from heart surgery

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 (Reuters) Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been moved out of an intensive care unit following surgery for a chest infection caused by a heart bypass, the hospital treating him said today.

Mahathir, the country's longest-serving premier, remains an influential political figure even though he has fallen out with his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, over policy changes made since his retirement.

The 82-year-old leader had quadruple bypass surgery on Sept 4, but needed a second operation on September 22 to counter the infection, and had been in intensive care since, though recovering steadily. ''Doctors are happy with his progress,'' the hospital said in a statement, adding that the former premier would continue with chest and muscle-strengthening exercises.

''Dr Mahathir has also been able to walk unaided since yesterday.'' The September 4 operation was Mahathir's second such surgery since 1989 and followed two heart attacks over the past 10 months.

''Dad was in a good mood,'' his eldest daughter, Marina, wrote on her Internet blog late yesterday. ''Ate well and then asked for his entire CD collection at home to be brought in.'' Mahathir, who stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in office, had accused Western financiers led by George Soros of having bet against Asian currencies and contributed to the subsequent 1997-98 economic meltdown.

REUTERS ARB RN1210

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