Army Helps Habibie Avert a Nascent Coup

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Indonesia's new president B.J. Habibie had been in office less than 70 hours when he faced the first of what will probably be a series of crises that will mark his presidency. Sources close to the President tell TIME that on May 23, Habibie was confronted at his office by Lieut. General Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of former President Suharto and the head of the powerful Army Strategic Reserve Command. The general "strongly requested" that Habibie name him army chief of staff and replace the chief of the armed forces, General Wiranto, with a Prabowo ally. Frightened, Habibie told the volatile general that promotions were up to the military, and left. Prabowo refused to go, departing only after an aide pretended Wiranto was on the phone. He came back the next day, this time with troops, and confronted Habibie, who again denied his request. Fearing a coup, security forces escorted Habibie to the adjoining palace and put him under heavy guard, while the army went on high alert. That night Wiranto stripped Prabowo of his command and reassigned him to head a military staff college.