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Wednesday, October 20, 1999 Published at 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

International praise for Wahid

Abdurrahman Wahid's election came as a surprise to many

Indonesia's neighbours in Asia and the Pacific have welcomed the election of Abdurrahman Wahid as president.

The United States called Mr Wahid a man it "can work with" although it was too early for a full assessment of Indonesia's new government.

Indonesia Flashpoints
The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said that as a leading religious and public figure Mr Wahid had been a strong supporter of political reform in Indonesia.

He said Mr Wahid has championed the values of tolerance and decency in public life for many years.

[ image: John Howard: Wahid
John Howard: Wahid "a champion of tolerance and decency"
Japan, Indonesia's biggest aid donor, said it expected further progress in reforms under the leadership of the new president, and promised aid to support them.

"The election was carried out with democratic procedures, and our country welcomes this. We hope that relations between Japan and Indonesia will be further strengthened under the government of President Wahid," the Japanese Government said in a statement.

Both Malaysia and Thailand said they hoped the election of Mr Wahid would restore political stability to Indonesia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he hoped the Indonesian people would support President Wahid in order to facilitate the workings of a government.

American caution

[ image: Mahathir Mohamad: hopes Indonesia will support Wahid]
Mahathir Mohamad: hopes Indonesia will support Wahid
The United States reacted with a degree of caution.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth said the new Indonesian president had been "quite impressive in terms of his breadth of knowledge on the issues and intentions towards the United States."

But he added that he would wait until Mr Wahid had named his vice-president.

"We don't have the full maturity of the political process, meaning because the vice-president has not been elected yet," Mr Roth told reporters.

"We don't know what the public reaction will be to the team," he said. "The next 24 hours are critical on how the process stands out."

Habibie not forgotten

[ image: BJ Habibie: praise from Australia]
BJ Habibie: praise from Australia
The Australian Government had praise for Mr Wahid's predecessor as well.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Australian parliament, BJ Habibie must be credited with allowing a referendum on independence for East Timor and - for the first time in Indonesia - the election of a president.

"It's a difficult position to be president through a transition ... Nevertheless President Habibie will be remembered for having been a president who democratised Indonesia," said Mr Downer.

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