"On behalf of this country, the people, the government and me personally, I would like to say our deep condolences on the death of Mr Haji Muhammad Suharto and I call on all the people of Indonesia to pray for him," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's current president said in comments broadcast on Elshinta radio.

Suharto's condition had deteriorated overnight prompting his six children to gather at his bedside at Jakarta's Pertamina hospital, one of his close aides said.

Reporters saw relatives of the family crying and said that members of Indonesia's special forces have arrived at the hospital.

Obituary


Suharto: 1921 - 2008

"We, the whole family, thank everyone who has prayed for our father," Suharto's eldest daughter Siti Hadijanti Rukmana, also known as Tutut, said sobbing as she addressed a press conference at the hospital.

Mardjo Soebiandono, the head of the medical team who had treated Suharto, told the press conference that Suharto had "peacefully passed away" at 13.10 (0610 GMT).

Controversial rule

Suharto, who led a regime widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt, has lived a reclusive life in a comfortable villa in downtown Jakarta for the past decade.

He had been in and out of the hospital several times since being toppled by a pro-democracy uprising during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis for heart problems and internal bleeding.

Historians say up to 800,000 alleged communist sympathisers were killed during Suharto's rise to power from 1965 to 1968. His troops killed another 300,000 in military operations against independence movements in Papua, Aceh and East Timor.

Suharto's poor health has kept him from facing trial, and no one has been punished for the killings.

Source: Agencies