HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ Hailed as an economic reformer who led his country away from poverty and isolation, retiring Premier Vo Van Kiet says it is time to make way for a new generation.

``We badly need young leaders,'' Kiet said in a recent interview with a state-controlled newspaper. ``The hand over of power is necessary for the development of the country.''

Kiet, 74, had a six-year tenure in office that saw the collapse of Vietnam's benefactor, the Soviet Union, and the start of a new friendship with one-time enemy, the United States.

Kiet took office in 1991 at a time of near-economic collapse. Inflation was almost in triple digits, the country could not feed itself and a U.S. embargo on Hanoi stunted development. Six years later, Vietnam enjoys near 9 percent annual economic growth, is one of the world's biggest rice exporters and has poverty on the decline.

``He is a man who left behind a remarkable impression on the international and domestic arena,'' said Deputy Premier Phan Van Khai, the man named by the Communist Party Central Committee to replace Kiet.

The country's new leadership must move away from crisis management to further develop the economy, Kiet said. Khai, 64, is interested in such continued economic reform, analysts say.

The National Assembly is expected to vote Thursday to confirm the party's selections for the new leadership. Deputy Premier Tran Duc Luong is expected to replace outgoing President Le Duc Anh.

Challenges for the new government include making the legal code uniform, passing laws to shore up the banking system and fighting corruption, Kiet said.

In recent months, hundreds of Communist Party members, private businessmen, government officials and police officers have been implicated in growing corruption scandals.

Despite repeated pledges to crack down on graft, Kiet seemed unable to put a lid on what Communist Party General Secretary Do Muoi described as a ``fatal disease.''

``Corruption, a serious illness in many countries, cannot be swept away overnight,'' Kiet said.

Kiet remains on the powerful standing committee of the Communist Party Politburo.