Gaborone - Botswana's President Festus Mogae has announced that he is to stand down next year after a decade at the helm of the diamond-rich southern African nation.

The 67-year-old told members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) he would serve another nine months as head of state and then hand over to Vice President Seretse Khama Ian Khama ahead of a general election in October 2009.

"I look forward in the next nine months to retirement and rest. I do so in the conviction, that I did my best; like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way and like Tony Blair, I did what I thought was right," he told delegates at a conference in the city of Molepolole on Saturday.

"I do so with a sense of immense, satisfaction as I look back at what we have achieved together ... I am further comforted by the belief that I have led a good party, with the assistance of good men and women, who are positioned to take it to greater heights."

The son of cattle farmers who was educated at Oxford University, Mogae has described himself as the 'CEO' of Botswana which is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa.

He came to power in 1998 in succession to Sir Ketumile Masire and was re-elected after his party triumphed over a divided opposition at the last elections in October 2004.

The president is elected by members of the National Assembly and the constitution precludes presidents from serving more than two terms.

While commentators believe the BDP's hold on office will continue for the foreseeable future, Festus warned it was important the BDP enjoyed the support of a majority of the people rather than just in parliament.

"A scenario where we win the majority of seats but fail to command a comfortable majority in the popular vote is not a good one," he said in his speech.

"Let us face it, it would undermine our mandate ... our opponents seem to think our 52 percent gives them some hope and even reason to celebrate."

A former senior director for Africa at the International Monetary Fund, Mogae made the fight against HIV and Aids one of the top priorities of his administration, warning once that Botswanans faced "extinction" from HIV. - Sapa-AFP