Former Indonesian President Suharto dead

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Jakarta, Jan 27 : Former Indonesian President Suharto, who ruled the world's fourth-most populous country with an iron-fist for more than three decades, died on Sunday in Jakarta of multiple organ failure. He was 86.

Muhamad Suharto died at about 1:10 p.m. (0610 GMT) at Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta. All of Suharto's children were present at his bedside when the former strongman died.

Suharto died following a prolonged illness. According to reports, Suharto, who had lapsed into a coma after more than three weeks in hospital, had suffered multiple organ failure.

Suharto was admitted to the hospital in critical condition on January 4 with anemia and a low heart rate.

Suharto was President of Indonesia from 1967 until his resignation in 1998. He steered Indonesia through a period of economic improvement, was staunchly anti-Communist and drew his country closer to the West.

Suharto was accused of being one of the 20th century's worst kleptocrats by amassing billions of dollars for himself, his family and cronies while in power.

A criminal trial against him was abandoned on health grounds, though a civil suit is currently being heard.

The government is seeking 1.4 billion dollars in damages and returned assets allegedly accrued through a charitable foundation Suharto chaired while in power.

A former general, he stepped down under immense political pressure following widespread student demonstrations and rioting.

Since then he was seldom seen in public due to several strokes, which had affected his speech and brain function, as well as giving him grounds to avoid appearing in court.

Human rights groups accused Suharto of killing hundreds of thousands of people, including up to 500,000 alleged communist sympathisers, in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt that help him rise to power in 1965.

The United Nations and the World Bank last September said that Suharto headed their list of the world's worst swindlers of state assets, along with the late Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Alberto Fujimori of Peru.

Suharto is survived by six children. His wife Siti Hartinah died in April 1996. Suharto's wish was to be buried near his late wife, near Surakarta or Solo, in central Java, about 650 kilometers south-east of Jakarta.

Suharto, who like many Indonesians used only one name, was born in Java in 1921. Accounts of his early years differ, but his family is known to have been large and poor. His peasant farmer parents were divorced when he was 2 years old and he was shifted from one relative to another as he grew up.

ANI

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