Suharto rebuts health rumours

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The Independent Online
President Suharto of Indonesia made a televised address to assure the country about his health after a week of rumours sent financial markets tumbling. "I had been advised by doctors to rest. But now I am healthy and in good condition," the 76-year-old said in a broadcast from his home in Jakarta on Saturday night. It was his first public statement in 10 days.

Suharto has governed Indonesia for more than three decades. He is expected to be re-elected to a seventh consecutive five-year term by a 1,000-member assembly in March. Despite his age, he has not nominated a successor.

Last week the rupiah, already battered by Asia's financial crisis, dropped 22 per cent to a record low, and the stock market plunged as nervous dealers and brokers swapped rumours that Suharto was seriously ill, that he had suffered a mild stroke or even that he had died. Repeated denials by government ministers did little to quell the speculation. On Friday, he cancelled a trip to Malaysia for a meeting of leaders from the nine- member Association of South-East Asian Nations, further fuelling the rumours. Earlier, the government had said he would attend.