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Malaysian Ex-Leader Hussein Bin Onn Dies

Hussein Bin Onn, prime minister of Malaysia from 1976 to 1981, died Monday at a California hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 68.

Hussein died at Seton Medical Center in Daly City near San Francisco. He had undergone triple heart bypass surgery there April 14 and was readmitted for additional heart and gall bladder surgery.

A heart operation in 1981 had forced his resignation.

Hussein was Malaysia’s third prime minister after the country gained independence from Britain in 1957. He became prime minister after the death of Abdul Razak in 1976. Hussein had been Abdul Razak’s deputy and his brother-in-law.

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Hussein was a member of the United Malays National Organization Party, which has ruled the country since independence in a coalition with Chinese and Indian parties.

Hussein selected the present prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, to succeed him in 1981. But the two broke with each other in 1987-88 when Mahathir sacked Malaysia’s highest-ranking judge, arrested 106 people and detained them without trial. Mahathir’s actions resulted in formation of a rival party.

During the past 18 months, Mahathir and Hussein were said to have reconciled their differences.

Hussein’s son-in-law, Yahya Awang, said the Malaysian Embassy was making arrangements for the body to be flown back to the Southeast Asia nation where an official funeral is planned.

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