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Making new friends

Asia Week - February 7, 1997

The word is finally out. On Jan. 23, Indonesia's best-known Muslim leader (and anti-establishment figure) Abdurrahman Wahid announced that he was inviting Suharto's daughter Siti Hardyanti Rukmana ("Tutut"), a leading member of the ruling Golkar party, to appear with him at religious schools loyal to his 300-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama organization. He denies he is dumping his longtime friendship with opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, saying that he wants to give his followers the opportunity to listen to political figures from all sides.

The move follows six months of rumors of a public appearance with Tutut and army chief Hartono. As yet, Wahid hasn't extended the same offer to Hartono, but lately he has been remarkably mellow in his comments about the tough general. Could it be that with Hartono being tipped as a possible vice-presidential candidate, Wahid has decided that anyone is better than the other potential veep, Research and Technology Minister B. J. Habibie?