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Indonesia President Ordered To Rest

February 25, 2000

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A day after being diagnosed with influenza, Indonesia’s frail President Abdurrahman Wahid took a second day off work Friday, aides said.

``He was ordered to stay in his room by the doctors,″ said one palace official speaking on condition of anonymity. ``All his programs have been canceled.″

Wahid emerged to visit a nearby mosque for weekly Friday prayers. The head of state looked relatively strong and was walking normally. He was accompanied by aides and members of his medical team.

Wahid denied Thursday that he was seriously ill after doctors ordered him to rest for several days and to cancel official engagements.

He joked with reporters Thursday and appeared relatively healthy. Despite his illness, he hosted a private dinner for visiting dignitaries from Germany.

The 59-year-old head of state is nearly blind, suffers from diabetes and has had a series of strokes in recent years. He finds it difficult to walk unaided.

The Muslim cleric and democratic reformer is regarded as central to Indonesia’s chances of recovering from economic and political turmoil. Confusion over his condition made financial markets jittery. The Jakarta Stock Exchange index dropped 2 percent Thursday and the value of the currency, the rupiah, also slid.

Thursday and Friday were Wahid’s first days off for illness since he took charge of the world’s fourth-most populous nation four months ago.

``The president has been advised to rest,″ said Dr. Mohammad Tony Soufyan, the head of Wahid’s five-member medical team. ``In general, his condition is good.″

Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak said the president postponed a scheduled Friday visit to west and central Java island. A scheduled Sunday trip to the neighboring oil-rich sultanate of Brunei also was called off.

Wahid has had two strokes in recent years and underwent brain surgery to stop internal bleeding in early 1998. Questions about his health have dogged him since he took office last October.

Since then, he has subjected himself to a punishing daily schedule and long hours in his quest to introduce democratic change, fix the battered economy and end several bloody communal conflicts.

As well as extensive tours of islands across sprawling Indonesia, he has visited a long list of countries on several whirlwind diplomatic tours. In his most recent overseas trip earlier this month, he visited 15 cities in the Middle East, Europe and Asia in 16 days.

Officials did not say whether Wahid would go ahead with a planned visit to East Timor next Tuesday. The visit would be the first by an Indonesian head of state since the half-island territory broke away from Indonesian rule last year, triggering a wave of violence by pro-Jakarta militiamen.