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Former Indonesian dictator Suharto dies

world Updated: Jan 27, 2008 22:29 IST

Former dictator Suharto, whose regime was considered one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt, but also ushered in an economic boom in Indonesia, died on Monday following multiple organ failure. He was 86.

"May God bless him and forgive all of his mistakes," his eldest daughter, Siti Hariyanti "Tutut" Rukmana, said and broke down in tears. Suharto was admitted to hospital on January 4 with heart, lung and kidney problems, and kept alive with dialysis and a ventilator for over three weeks.

"He stopped breathing on his own overnight before slipping into a coma today" and died in the afternoon around 1:10 pm (local time), Dr Marjo Subiandono of the Pertamina Hospital in the capital, Jakarta, said in a statement.

Suharto had suffered multiple organ failure overnight. He had been resuscitated but continued to remain unconscious till his death. The government has declared a week of national mourning and announced that Suharto will have a state funeral.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday described him as one of Indonesia's "best sons" who had "contributed so much service and dedication to his beloved nation".

Suharto, who seized power in 1966, was a ruthless dictator whose 32-year regime was allegedly responsible for the killings of at least half a million supporters of communism. His forces killed another 300,000 in Papua, Aceh and East Timor during military operations.

But he also presided over a booming economy which shifted from dependency on oil and gas exports to focus on exporting manufactured products and textiles. He was particularly hailed for leading Indonesia to become self-sufficient in production of rice, the country's staple food.

The country's economic boom was, however, marked by massive corruption with billions of dollars ending up in the hands of Suharto's friends and relatives.

He had to step down in 1998 after massive street protests triggered by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, after which he led a reclusive life in a comfortable villa in downtown Jakarta. Suharto, who was accused of embezzling about $600 million, avoided corruption and criminal trial by citing poor health.

World leaders on Monday condoled his death and praised him for modernising his country. The US said Suharto was a "historic figure" who achieved "remarkable economic and social development".

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hailed him for his role as one of the founders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

"As one of the founding fathers of ASEAN, President Suharto was among those who had the pioneering vision of establishing a more peaceful, progressive and prosperous Southeast Asian region founded on respect and understanding," Arroyo said in a statement. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described him as an "influential leader", while adding that "The former president was also a controversial figure in respect of human rights and East Timor and many have disagreed with his approach".

Suharto was born on June 8, 1921, to a farmer's family. When Indonesia became independent from the Dutch in 1949, Suharto quickly became a staff officer in the military. He shot up the ranks and later eased out of office Indonesia's first post-independence president, Sukarno, who died under house arrest in 1970. Suharto was made president and he was re-elected unopposed six times.