Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who will be 72 in December, has indicated he has no early plans to retire. And if he has a date for stepping down in mind, he is not yet ready to disclose it. In an interview with CNN, he was asked whether he planned to stay on as Prime Minister for many more years and what would happen to Malaysia after his departure. Sidestepping the first part of the question, Dr Mahathir said he did not think anything would change very radically just because he was not around. 'I have a very co-operative and cohesive leadership,' he said. 'In Malaysia for the past 40 years, we have had successions of leaders without any real upheaval.' But he gave the impression that the next leadership change was still some years away, keeping the focus on himself rather than his nominated successor, the Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, whom he neither named nor praised. 'Now I have designated my successor, there should not be a problem,' he said in a less than ringing endorsement of Mr Anwar. 'The only problem, of course, is, 'When should I step down?' It is very difficult to determine. But I think I will be able to read the signs.' Pressed on the question of whether he would try for another term of office, Dr Mahathir said: 'When the time comes I will make a decision.' His first decision will be whether to seek re-election as president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which dominates the ruling National Front coalition, in the party's elections in October 1999. The UMNO president has been the prime minister for the 40 years of independence. Dr Mahathir is expected to offer his name and be re-elected as UMNO president in 1999 and lead the party into the next general elections in 2000. It is thought he would then stand aside for Mr Anwar. But if he is healthy and feels a need to carry on, he may postpone his retirement to beyond 2000. Angered by speculation in the currency and stock markets, which has sharply reduced the value of the Malaysian dollar and pushed down share prices, Dr Mahathir has taken the lead in denouncing foreign 'manipulators' and announcing moves to tackle the problem. This prompted rumours that Mr Anwar would resign as Finance Minister, which the Prime Minister denied. Analysts said Dr Mahathir's active involvement in Finance Ministry affairs showed he still wanted to keep his hands on all the levers of power.