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Uganda's Museveni hints he won't stand next time

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RWAKITURA, Uganda, Feb 27 (Reuters) Fresh from re-election and criticised by some for his longevity in power, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni hinted he would not stand again in 2011, when he will have held office for 25 years.

''By that time, I will be quite an elderly man,'' the 62-year-old president said at his Rwakitura cattle-ranch in western Uganda at his first news conference after the poll.

''I don't really think that I'm so much interested in running around,'' he added late on Sunday, looking tired as he returned from rallies by helicopter to the modest hilltop farm.

The former guerrilla leader, who took power in 1986 after a bush war, won Uganda's election comfortably last week with 59 percent of the vote. His former physician and main rival, Kizza Besigye, received 37 percent.

Museveni, who critics say has changed from a young reformer into a typical African ''Big Man'', said his priority was to ensure a planned East African Federation was under way with a three-nation leadership by 2010.

''Once east Africa is united by 2010...if that roadmap is adopted by all of us, then that would be the greatest achievement in the history of black Africa,'' he said.

''And if I would have contributed to that, I would be the most satisfied man and definitely the mandate of this presidency would end in 2011.'' Asked how he reconciled his stated disdain for long-serving African leaders when he came to power in 1986 with the fact he was now entering a third decade in office, Museveni said he was referring then to tyrannical governments.

''Longevity without democracy was what I meant,'' he said.

''Because, if the people are renewing my mandate in a free election, then I wouldn't put it in that category. I was talking about dictatorship.'' ''STOP MEDDLING'' Western nations once showered Museveni with praise as the foremost of a new generation of progressive African leaders.

They were disappointed last year when parliament scrapped term limits that would have ended his presidency at this poll.

Then they were shocked, and some cut millions in aid, when Besigye, 49, was charged with treason and rape.

Museveni struck a less aggressive tone towards Western countries on Sunday than he had during the campaign, but nevertheless said Uganda was immune to their criticism.

''We are not foolish people and we do not need people to meddle in our affairs,'' he said.

Instead, the West should work to promote common interests such as defeating Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the north and opening markets to local products, he said.

''I regard myself as a donor,'' he said, referring to the export of unprocessed coffee and other raw materials on which Western companies made huge profits.

''We are donating more to you than you give us in aid.'' Museveni said other priorities for his new term were expanding infrastructure, monetarising the subsistence agriculture sector, and building up local industry.

The LRA rebels in the north had been defeated on Ugandan soil, and were hiding in neighbouring Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, meaning about 1.6 million internally displaced people should be able to return soon, he said.

''Soon they will be home, we are working on a plan.'' REUTERS CH SND1232

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