Indonesia's ailing Suharto still unstable

( Reuters ) - The condition of ailing former Indonesian President Suharto, who ruled with an iron fist for more than three decades, is still unstable with excess fluid in his lungs, a member of his medical team said on Thursday.

Suharto, 86, was admitted to Jakarta's Pertamina Hospital last week suffering from anemia and low blood pressure due to heart, lung and kidney problems, and his condition has fluctuated since then.

"His physical condition is still unstable. He has difficulty breathing," said Mardjo Soebiandono, the head of the medical team treating the former general.

"He is conscious. After receiving blood transfusion, his hemoglobin level has increased ... An X-ray of the lungs condition shows excess accumulation of liquid."

Suharto was forced to quit in 1998 amid massive student protests, and though his political influence has faded since then, he and his family still remain powerful.

Critics say he and his family amassed billions during his long rule, but the former president and members of his family deny any wrongdoing.

Attempts by subsequent governments to prosecute Suharto for graft have failed so far.

But some Indonesians still look back with nostalgia at the Suharto era, when Indonesia was one of Asia's tiger economies, and refer to him fondly as the "Father of Development."

All six of Suharto's children, and almost all of his sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and grandchildren were with him at the hospital on Tuesday, indicating the seriousness of his condition.

The former strongman, who rarely appears in public, has suffered from various ailments in recent years, including intestinal bleeding and strokes.

Suharto was previously charged with graft but escaped prosecution when he was deemed too ill to stand trial. He and his family are still involved in a couple of high-profile court cases.

The sudden deterioration in his health over the weekend prompted some senior politicians and one of Suharto's daughters to call for legal proceedings against him to be dropped.

But the attorney-general said on Monday his office would press ahead with a civil case against Suharto.

Despite Suharto's humiliating ouster in 1998 and the subsequent attempts to prosecute him for corruption, members of Indonesia's political and business elite have flocked to his bedside to pay their respects.

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