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Elections Called for in Indonesia

May 25, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesia’s new president on Monday faced demands for a release of political prisoners, and for early elections to make a clean break with the country’s corrupt past.

Justice Minister Muladi was scheduled to meet with President B.J. Habibie on Monday morning to discuss the possible release of 10 to 15 prisoners. The English-language Jakarta Post said the inmates ``would be released in the next few weeks,″ though there were unconfirmed reports the move would come sooner.

Opposition leaders say the release is needed to show Habibie wants to ease the government’s iron-fisted grip on this country of 202 million people.

On Monday, the Indonesian Observer newspaper joined those urging new elections, saying that ``time is running out fast.″

Six of the 36 ministers in the days-old Cabinet are seeking early elections that would lead to the selection of a new president. Habibie took over last Thursday, after the resignation of former President Suharto, for a term lasting until 2003.

Top economic minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita has been rallying support for a new round of national voting.

``I’m prepared to be a minister for only one or two months,″ he told reporters.

Opposition figure Amien Rais, who has been at the forefront of the campaign for political reform, told reporters Sunday that he had been informed by sources that Habibie had agreed to hold early elections. Government officials were not available for comment.

Indonesia was wracked by a wave of riots earlier this month that killed more than 500 people in Jakarta alone, and led to Suharto’s downfall.

Now that calm has returned, foreigners are flocking back into Indonesia, after fleeing a little more than a week earlier during the riots.

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