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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May 2005, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Indonesia's Suharto 'feels better'
Former Indonesian President Suharto (C) waving to journalists as he leaves a hospital in Jakarta, May 2004
Suharto has been dogged by ill health in recent years
The health of former Indonesian President Suharto is gradually improving, but he is still not stable, his doctors have said.

The former leader was rushed to hospital last Thursday, suffering from intestinal bleeding.

But after giving a 50-50 prognosis on Monday, doctors said on Tuesday that his condition was "much better".

Suharto, 83, has been suffering from ill health since his forced resignation in 1998, after 32 years in power.

He was indicted for alleged corruption, but was deemed unfit to stand trial due to a series of strokes.

Sutji Mariono, the head of the state-owned Pertamina Hospital where Suharto is a patient, said on Tuesday that the former president no longer needed blood transfusions, but remained hooked to a saline solution drip.

She said there was now only a bit of intestinal bleeding, and his red blood cell count was slowly rising.

"He is not stable yet. He can talk, but because of previous ailments, it's slow," she said.

Since doctors announced the severity of his condition on Monday, the former president has had a steady stream of visitors to his bedside.

Meanwhile Suharto's family told the Associated Press they were optimistic he would make a full recovery.

Former Indonesian President Suharto
Born in Java, June 1921
As army minister, plays a central role in helping Sukarno overcome a coup in 1965
Becomes president March 1967
Modernisation programmes in the 70s and 80s raise living standards
East Timor forcibly annexed in late 1975
Asian economic crisis of the 1990s hits Indonesian economy
Spiralling prices and discontent force him to resign in May 1998
Judges rule he is unfit to stand trial for corruption in 2000

"He is weak but still able to communicate," said Juan Felix Tampubolon, a spokesman for the family.

"The family is optimistic about the chances of a full recovery," he said.

Mixed legacy

Despite his age and frailty, Suharto remains a divisive figure in Indonesia.

His supporters credit him with leading his country from poverty to relative prosperity, making Indonesia a force to be reckoned with in Asia.

But this economic growth came at a price: Suharto's dictatorial regime was repressive, and he repeatedly ignored demands for political reform.

He was regularly accused of corruption and allowing human rights abuses, most notably in East Timor, where his armed forces waged a sustained campaign against local separatists.

Critics accused him of amassing a private fortune during his 32-year rule.

But in 2000 judges dismissed a US$600m corruption case against the former dictator, after doctors testified that a series of strokes had left him brain damaged and unfit to face prosecution.

Since then, the former strongman has lived quietly in his Jakarta home, watching from the sidelines as his country has moved towards full democracy.

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28 Sep 00 |  Asia-Pacific

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