Doctors treating former Indonesian President Suharto, 86, say he has regained consciousness and his breathing has improved to a point that he may be taken off a ventilator.

Doctors said Wednesday that while he is still weak, the former dictator can respond verbally to requests.

Physicians have begun to wean him off of the ventilator that has been helping him breathe since he was first admitted to the hospital on January 4.

On Tuesday, doctors had warned that Mr. Suharto had developed a potentially deadly blood infection, and said his heart was unstable.

Doctors are also concerned about fluid and infection in one of Mr. Suharto's lungs.

Family members have left any decisions about life support to his doctors.

Dozens of police and military personnel are standing guard at the Suharto family mausoleum outside the Java city of Solo as workers prepare the site for a possible funeral.

The former five-star general ruled Indonesia for 32 years before he was forced to resign in 1998 after riots and demonstrations demanding his ouster.  He has been accused of looting the government of billions of dollars.  His declining health has kept him from being prosecuted.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.