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Friday, May 15, 1998 Published at 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK

Suharto's day of reckoning
image: [ Fires have raged across the city ]
Fires have raged across the city

BBC News' Matt Frei describes the army's ambiguous role in the crisis
President Suharto has been holding emergency talks with senior aides and military commanders as riots and looting continue in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Meanwhile the full extent of casualties is now becoming clear.

[ image: As rioters target the ethnic Chinese, many are fleeing the country]
As rioters target the ethnic Chinese, many are fleeing the country
In the worst incident in more than three days of anti-government protests, rioters set fire to a five-storey department store while more than 100 people were still looting inside.

Piles of charred bodies were found in the building, bringing the death toll of the last few days to more than 200.

A BBC Correspondent saw almost 90 bodies in one hospital alone. Searches have been continuing of burnt out shopping malls and offices.

Foreign Minister spokesman Ghafar Fadyl says Suharto will make his decision through constitutional means (0' 48")
Tanks and armoured vehicles are now positioned throughout Jakarta; troops opened fire on one crowd, near the presidential palace.

Meanwhile, serious rioting has also been reported in the cities of Solo and Padang. Eyewitness reports from Padang said thousands of people were looting and setting fire to buildings.

President offers concessions

Simon Ingram reports from Jakarta on President Suharto's options (41")
President Suharto says he will reverse the fuel price rises that contributed to the rioting. But a BBC correspondent in Jakarta says that may not be enough. Public anger has been directed as much against the president himself as against Indonesia's dire economic state.

Many foreigners and members of the ethnic Chinese community are leaving Indonesia, with several countries taking steps to withdraw their nationals.

Suharto faces critics

President Suharto was forced to cut short his official visit to Egypt to deal with the political crisis facing his country.

The president was driven into the city in an armoured convoy of more than 100 vehicles, before meeting nine of his senior ministers.

[ image:  ]
He has repeated his willingness to step down if it is judged that he has lost the trust of the people, according to the Information Minister, Alwi Dahlan.

One of the major factions within President Suharto's own ruling Golkar party has issued a statement demanding his resignation.

However, a foreign ministry spokesman, Ghafar Fadyl, said that if President Suharto did step down it would be through constitutional measures, not the use of force.

"We have the People's Congress, we have all the democratic machinary in which [his resignation] could be discussed. This has to be discussed through constitutional means and not through the use of force," he said.

The BBC Jakarta correspondent says that the army is the only institution in Indonesia with enough power to force through political change. Although army generals have been loyal to the president so far, our correspondent says that he unlikely to be able to withstand pressure to stand down for much longer.

"Mr Suharto has made political stability and economic growth the hallmarks of his rule - now that he has lost both, it is difficult to see how he can stay in power much longer," said Jonathan Head.

Click here to read Jonathan's Head full analysis on what will happen next.

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In this section

Thousands flee Indonesia's uneasy calm

Riots too hot for business

Chinese flee Jakarta

Death toll reaches 200

Suharto - what next?

Chronology of people's revolt