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Monday, May 11, 1998 Published at 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK

Indonesian Muslim leader says Suharto should go
image: [ Amien Rais : believes the people want Suharto out ]
Amien Rais : believes the people want Suharto out

The leader of one of the largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia, Amien Rais, has announced plans to assemble a group of political, ethnic and religious leaders to bring down the government.

Amien Rais, who heads the 28 million member Muhammadiyah organisation, told a meeting of his supporters in Jakarta that President Suharto's government had failed to deal with Indonesia's economic problems and the people wanted him to go.

Describing Mr Suharto's government as the most corrupt in the universe, Mr Rais warned that the unrest in Indonesia would escalate unless the President stepped down.

"I'm afraid that the situation is developing very very fast and probably everything will be out of control unless Suharto comes down to earth and he has good wisdom to judge the situation," he said.

Military's crucial role

In a BBC interview, the opposition leader said much now depended on whether the armed forces supported the interests of Mr Suharto and his family, or those of the whole of Indonesia. Mr Rais said any new administration should reflect all the country's different groups.

Riots and violent anti-government protests over the past two weeks have shaken business confidence in Indonesia which has been in the grip of a severe economic crisis since the end of last year.

This is not the first time Amien Rais has demanded President Suharto's resignation. He offered himself as an alternative presidential candidate back at the beginning of this year.

But the BBC Jakarta correspondent says his comments are likely to carry far more weight now in a country which is going through a political reawakening after three decades in which all opposition to Mr Suharto was suppressed.

Pressure on the president came from different quarter when a group of retired generals and politicians issued a statement urging the pro-Suharto assembly that named him to a seventh five-year term in March to revoke the appointment.

Ali Sadikin, a retired three-star general, told a news conference that Mr Suharto's government had for too long used "state money for personal interests" and abused its power.

Suharto: major sacrifices needed

President Suharto is taking part in a G15 conference of developing countries in Egypt this week, apparently confident that his country remains under control.

He told the G15 summit in Cairo that his country had to make major sacrifices to ensure that the necessary economic reforms were implemented following the Asian economic crisis.

These, he said, were affecting the country's financial reserves and what he called its social discipline.


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