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Thursday, May 21, 1998 Published at 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK

World leaders back peaceful change

Suharto met virtually every world leader during 32 years in power

World leaders have broadly welcomed the resignation of President Suharto and the appointment of BJ Habibie as his successor with the main concern being a return to stability.

In America, President Bill Clinton urged Indonesia's new leaders to move forward with "a peaceful process" backed by the Indonesian people.

He said America was ready to support Indonesia as it moved towards the creation of a stable democracy.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook: "not just a transfer from one president to another"
America had been putting pressure on Mr Suharto to stand down with dignity as an act of statesmanship.

In a statement Mr Clinton said: "We welcome President Suharto's decision, which provides an opportunity to begin a process leading to a real democratic transition for Indonesia.

"We urge Indonesia's leaders to move forward promptly with a peaceful process that enjoys broad public support."

Praise for Suharto

The Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto also promised support for Indonesian reform after President Suharto's resignation.

[ image: Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta]
Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta
He said: "Now that Indonesia will shift to a new administration I sincerely hope that social stability and economic recovery will be realised as soon as possible.

"Our country will continue to pledge support for the Indonesian people's reform efforts."

He also praised Mr Suharto as the "father of development" in Indonesia.

Japan has been the biggest contributor to the International Monetary Fund's rescue package for Indonesia providing more than $5bn.

Opportunity for "serious reform"

The UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said the change of power gave the Indonesians an opportunity to create the kind of democratic structures which could have prevented the chaos of recent weeks.

"(It is) an opening for serious reform, which will create a more democratic government and more accountable structures within Indonesia."

Mr Cook said the UK Government would be repeating the message to President Habibie.

Lessons to be learned

President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines, who is the current chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), welcomed the changes as a step in the right direction for economic recovery.

"This has to do with the recovery of the Indonesian economy," he said.

"In terms of providing now the basic needs of the people ... the important social step has been done."

Indonesia is the biggest member of Asean and Mr Ramos said the Association should learn the need for consultation with the masses - a remark seen as highlighting the Philipinnes' recent, relatively peaceful presidential elections.

In Bangkok, Thai government spokesman Akhapol Sorasuchart sympathised with what he called Mr Suharto's "difficult decision", adding that "President Suharto will certainly by missed among the Asean members."

Co-operation guarantee

Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer: hopes the military play a "constructive role"
In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard welcomed President Suharto's decision and offered words of support to his successor, BJ Habibie: "My government will co-operate fully with Dr Habibie's administration ... as we will with any future Indonesian administration."

Mr Howard also stressed the importance of an orderly transition of power: "It should be without bloodshed and and it should be within the current constitution."

The South Korean government, who along with Indonesia have experienced economic troubles over the last year, viewed the Indonesian president's resignation as being in accordance with the wish to overcome the current crisis.

In a statement reported on South Korean radio, the foreign ministry said the government hoped for peace and order and a restoration of stability as soon as possible.

Jose Ramos Horta: "I don't see Habbibie lasting more than a few days or weeks at the most"
Speaking from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, East Timor's Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta appealed for calm in his homeland: "In East Timor, I urge prudence, caution to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed."

He added: "Our people have been the first victims of this regime. Even when no-one fought Suharto they battled alone with courage and tencity - they are not going to give up now."

Mr Ramos also called for Indonesia to transform itself into what he called a true democratic country, a place where the army could not dictate the future.

East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and later annexed.

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