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Monday, 17 January, 2000, 11:45 GMT
Wahid warns military against coup

Military in Moluccan islands Rumours are rife of a possible coup


Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has warned the military he will take "harsh action" against any challenge to his power as rumours sweep the country of an impending coup.

But Mr Wahid said he doubted the military would stage a takeover against his reformist administration.



We will take harsh action against any [coup] attempt
President Wahid

He also said he would not be sacking his powerful minister of security, the former military chief General Wiranto, and he ruled out a general reshuffle of his three-month-old cabinet.

Earlier this month, government officials said the president was considering sacking eight ministers, including Mr Wiranto.

Fragile Archipelago
"I don't think there will be a coup, that is one thing," he said. ''The second thing is that we will take harsh action against any attempt if there is one."

He was speaking three days after Richard Holbrooke, the US ambassador to the United Nations, warned Indonesia's military chiefs not to contemplate a takeover.

Mr Holbrooke's comments came amid speculation that some of Indonesia's top generals, angered by efforts to prosecute them for human rights abuses, particularly in East Timor, may be planning a move against Mr Wahid.

Violence

Some senior commanders have also been infuriated that Mr Wahid has overruled their demands for military crackdowns in Aceh and the Moluccan islands where separatist and religious strife has cost thousands of lives.

"[Mr Holbrooke] gave a warning to the military in Indonesia not to do anything against the government, and we appreciate that," Mr Wahid said.


The UN in East Timor The UN is investigating reports of massacres in East Timor

"We appreciate the fact that other countries are concerned."

A government human-rights investigation has accused Mr Wiranto and other top commanders of permitting the violence that swept East Timor in September after the territory voted to split from Indonesia, which invaded in 1975.

Suharto

On Friday, Mr Holbrooke, who currently holds the UN Security Council's rotating presidency, called on the Indonesian army to co-operate with the investigation into human rights abuses in East Timor.

He said the US Government believed the military was "doing immense damage to Indonesia" by continuing to thwart the probe.


President Wahid of Indonesia President Wahid is trying to dilute the power of the army

The military played a pivotal role in Indonesia during three decades of authoritarian rule under ex-President Suharto. But its power has eroded since Mr Wahid's appointment in October.

Last week, Mr Wahid said he had asked the military to fire its top spokesman, Major General Sudradjat, a Wiranto ally, who said the head of state had no right to interfere in the internal affairs of the armed forces.

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See also:
15 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
US warns Indonesian generals
10 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Tough times for Indonesia's military
22 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia rejects UN Timor probe
14 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Wahid: Generals should stand trial
29 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia 'responsible' for Timor destruction

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