Malaysia's former Prime Minister hospitalized

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been hospitalized for a routine cardiac checkup, his office said Thursday. Mahathir, 80, was admitted to Kuala Lumpur's specialist National Heart Institute on Wednesday night and is expected to be discharged Friday, his office said in a statement carried by the national news agency Bernama.

Mahathir's aides did not immediately answer calls seeking further details. Allawiyah Yusof, a spokeswoman for the heart institute, said Mahathir's family has requested that the hospital not make any statements regarding Mahathir's condition.

The former leader underwent triple heart bypass surgery in 1989 after being hospitalized with chest pains. Still, Mahathir has remained generally healthy in recent years, frequently traveling overseas on lecture tours and appearing regularly for public events at home.

His last major illness was in 1999, when he suffered a severe lung infection that kept him hospitalized for 10 days. He had taken ill with bronchitis after returning from a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Mahathir retired in October 2003 after 22 years in power, during which he often maintained a hectic schedule of work and travel. He currently holds no political office, but remains an influential voice and respected figure for having spearheaded Malaysia's growth from a rubber and tin-producing backwater into one of Southeast Asia's wealthiest, most industrialized nations, reports the AP. I.L.

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