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Blatter hints at retirement

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 – Sepp Blatter, hoping to win a fourth term as FIFA president, hinted Thursday it could be his final stint as the head of football's world governing body.

"Possibly yes," the 75-year-old said when asked if the upcoming election would be his final bid.

"There is a moment when you really have to step down and when you are not intelligent enough to tell yourself when shall be the end, then perhaps our Lord will say ‘stop it now’."

Blatter, on a whirlwind tour of Asia including East Timor, Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia, spoke amid speculation that Asian football chief Mohamad bin Hammam will run against him.

"I just passed on 10th of March 75 years. But I think I am full of energy and I have not yet finished my work to develop football and organise competition," he said.

"I am willing to go on for the next four years. This is my wish and we will see what the congress will say."

The FIFA presidential election is due to take place in Zurich on June 1. The Swiss president has been at the FIFA helm for 13 years.

Earlier, he held talks with Football Association Malaysia president Sultan Ahmad Shah.

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Blatter said he welcomed any challenge for the top FIFA post, adding that he had support among Asian and Middle East countries.

"I think competition is always very good," he said.

Bin Hammam was once a close ally of Blatter and a driving force behind his campaign to be elected in 1998 but the pair fell out two years ago.

Blatter said he was unable to meet Bin Hammam as both had busy schedules. The Swiss will return to Zurich via Singapore later Thursday.

Bin Hammam’s stunning success in securing the 2022 World Cup for Qatar provided a stimulus for him to consider the world football body’s top post.

The 61-year-old Qatari is scheduled to hold a news conference at the Asian Football Confederation headquarters in Malaysia at 0500 GMT on Friday.

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