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Anti-Suharto Protests Intensify

Up to 3,000 angry students were blocked from marching on former President Suharto's home on Thursday, as his successor warned that further civil unrest could threaten national unity.

Demonstrators faced off with about 500 soldiers holding riot shields and sticks outside the U.S. ambassador's residence a few blocks away from Suharto's house. The autocratic former leader has remained a virtual recluse since his 32-year rule came to an end after deadly riots in May.

Protesters shouted "Hang Suharto!" and demanded he be put on trial for corruption and human rights abuses. They accused him of plundering the nation's wealth and demanded that his personal wealth be seized by the state.

"Suharto has robbed Indonesia's rich economy for decades. Now we have to take back the property for the people," said protest organizer Aset.

The Republika newspaper reported on Thursday that the government is investigating whether it can seize an 1,850-acre cattle ranch south of Jakarta that is owned by Suharto and is considered one of the finest ranches in Indonesia. Local villagers have laid claim to the land.

Earlier, President B.J. Habibie said civil unrest could escalate if student protesters prevented his government from carrying out promised political reforms.

The warning follows last week's clashes between military forces and demonstrators seeking faster democratic change. As many as 16 people died in the unrest, including eight students.

Police rounded up suspects over the weekend for questioning about the protests, and police spokesman Brig. Gen. Togar Sianipar said 10 suspects had been formally charged with trying to attack the government. They could face life in prison if convicted. More could be charged soon, Togar said.

Director General of Immigration Pranowo also said on Thursday that 17 people had been banned from traveling abroad following a police request.

Habibie, who has pledged to dismantle the authoritarian system set up by Suharto, said the government must implement a dozen reforms passed by the People's Consultative Assembly, the nation's highest legislative body.

If reforms fail, Habibie said in prepared remarks distributed by his office, "it will not be an impossibility that social unrest continues to be rampant, eventually threatening the unity of our nation."

Written by CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA