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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK

Suharto reshuffles the pack

About 500 people have died in Jakarta's rioting and looting this week

President Suharto of Indonesia has announced that he is reshuffling his cabinet in response to the mass rioting which has broken out in several areas of the country.

BBC Correspondent Jonathan Head: "This is unprecedented" (1'13")
No details of the reshuffle have been given but the BBC correspondent in Jakarta says it is the first time in three decades that Mr Suharto has made such large changes in the middle of a presidential term.

The existing cabinet was appointed only two months ago and includes Mr Suharto's eldest daughter and one of his closest business associates.

Indonesian parliamentary leaders met Mr Suharto on Saturday to convey people's demands for change.

[ image: Suharto met parliamentary leaders and academics]
Suharto met parliamentary leaders and academics
"There are demands for reforms soon and a desire for improvements in all sectors, including in the political, economic and legal sectors," the Parliamentary Speaker Harmoko said after a meeting with the president.

But our correspondent says that after the protests across Indonesia, such limited concessions may be too late.

No sign on resigning

Asman Budisantoso, head of the University of Indonesia, a centre of anti-Suharto protests for three months, also met the president on Saturday. He said Suharto seemed to indicate he would not leave his post in the near future.

"He replied very sweetly. He said the head of state was carrying out his responsibilities," Mr Budisantoso said.

The chief of the Indonesian armed forces, General Wiranto, told parliament on Friday evening the military was in favour of reform as long as it followed the constitutional path through a body that Mr Suharto has largely appointed.

About 500 people are reported to have been killed in rioting in Jakarta this week.

Troops and armoured vehicles remain on the streets of the city, while officials continue to remove charred bodies from burnt out shopping centres.

Thousands of foreign nationals are leaving the capital and scheduled flights are full. Several countries have organised special flights to evacuate their nationals.

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