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Indonesia president defends bank bailout ministers

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (4 March 2010)
Protesters have called for Mr Yudhoyono to resign over the issue

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has defended two ministers after parliament voted for a criminal probe into them over a bank bailout.

Mr Yudhoyono said Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati had records of "competence and integrity".

They spent $720m (£487m) of state money to bail out Bank Century in 2008.

The opposition and the two main parties in the governing coalition allege that the move was an abuse of power.

'Good track records'

Indonesia's main audit agency has alleged irregularities in the bailout. The two ministers deny any wrongdoing.

In a nationally televised address, the president said the decision to bail out Bank Century was made at the height of the financial crisis.

Protesters demanding inquiry into the Bank Century scandal - 6 December 2009

Mr Yudhoyono described the ministers as "two of the best children of the nation, who have good track records for personal competence, credibility and integrity".

Ms Indrawati and Mr Boediono are widely admired among the business and reform communities in Indonesia.

But Thursday's vote saw 325 MPs voting in favour of a criminal investigation of the two technocrats, with 212 against.

Correspondents say the vote will increase pressure on Mr Yudhoyono, who faces having to choose between keeping his main economic reformers and holding together the coalition government.

However, the parliamentary vote does not legally require any action by the president.

The bitter political conflict has plagued the government for months.

The eventual cost of the bailout increased tenfold from its original estimate.

It has been alleged that after the bailout, some of the bank's wealthy clients donated money to the president's election campaign.

The government insists the bailout protected Indonesia from the global financial crisis.



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