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Wanted General Runs for President in Indonesia - 2004-05-11

The controversial former head of Indonesia's armed forces, who has been charged in neighboring East Timor with crimes against humanity, has formally declared his intention to run in July's presidential elections, and has chosen a former human rights official as his running mate.

General Wiranto formally announced Tuesday that he will be the presidential candidate of Indonesia's biggest political party, Golkar.

His running mate is to be Salahuddin Wahid, former deputy chairman of Indonesia's human rights commission, and brother of former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

General Wiranto, who has retired from the military, has been accused of crimes against humanity by a court in East Timor, where a warrant was issued for his arrest on Monday. The court charges that he had command responsibility for murders and forcible deportations carried out by members of the Indonesian security services during Timor's split from Indonesia in 1999.

The general denies the charges, saying they are part of a conspiracy against him. In his announcement Tuesday in front of some 3,000 party faithful in Jakarta, he preferred to look forward.

General Wiranto said he would have five main goals as president: law enforcement and protection of human rights, good governance, repairing Indonesia's stuttering economy, education and national reconciliation. His military background has stirred fears among some Indonesians of a return to power by the generals who have ruled the country for most of the time since its independence after World War Two. The General said his background did not mean he was any less committed to democracy.

Analysts say his choice of running mate may help to soften his image somewhat, but his main reason for the choice was Mr. Wahid's powerful family and political connections.

Until resigning Tuesday to run for vice president, Salahuddin Wahid was a member of the board of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim social organization in the world and an influential force in Indonesian society. The group, which provides education, health care and other social services, was founded by Mr. Wahid's grandfather.

Opinion polls show General Wiranto running second in the presidential race to another former general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was until recently the country's security minister.