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February 5 2000

Indonesia's Wahid Urges Wiranto to Resign

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ROME (Reuters) - Indonesian President Abdurraham Wahid said on Saturday he hoped that before he returns from his European tour in mid February ex-military chief General Wiranto will have resigned from his cabinet post.

Wiranto has so far not complied with Wahid's demand that he resigns as coordinating minister for political and security affairs, raising fears of a possible military coup.

Wahid's request came after Wiranto was named in a report on atrocities that followed the East Timor independence ballot last year, when he was armed forces commander.

``I hope he decides to resign before I come back. But, if not, we will implement what we decided before: who is prosecuted by a court should be inactive and be replaced temporarily,'' Wahid told reporters after meeting with representatives of the Sant'Egidio Roman Catholic peace group in the Italian capital.

Wahid is due back in Indonesia from his European tour on February 13.

``If afterwards he was found guilty, the government will implement what will be decided by the judges,'' he said, though he ducked a question on whether he could consider pardoning Wiranto.

A spokesman for Sant'Egidio said Wahid, who has repeatedly said fears of a coup were unfounded, appeared calm during his meeting with the Roman Catholic group and expressed confidence the military would continue to back him.

Wahid Wants International Help

Wahid, elected president last year, told the Sant'Egidio group Indonesia needed the help and support of the international community in this delicate moment of transition, the peace group's spokesman said.

Wahid and Sant'Egidio also discussed the possibility of organizing a meeting of top religious and peace figures in Indonesia in the future.

Sant'Egidio representatives had met Wahid before in his capacity as chairman of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization Nadhlatul Ulama, which has some 40 million members.

Earlier on Saturday, Wahid had a private audience with Pope John Paul where the two discussed the situation in the Asian country and in the island of Timor.

Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope and Wahid talked in particular about inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence between the country's different religious communities.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim state, has been racked by Muslim-Christian violence in some areas in recent months.

After the 12-minute audience with the pope, Wahid met Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's Secretary of State. Sodano is second in the Vatican hierarchy to Pope John Paul. Details of their meeting were not released.

Wahid also had talks on Friday with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.


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