Thursday, November 03, 2005

President and top officials host thousands for Idul Fitri

Indonesia's president and other top officials opened the doors of their homes Thursday to welcome thousands celebrating IdulFitri, the most important holiday on the Muslim calendar.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, and members of The First Family (photo by shook hands with well-wishers who flocked to State Palace, where long queues of visitors were asked to leave their bags outside and pass through metal detectors before entering.

Earlier in the day, a similar open house was reserved for state officials and other dignitaries and diplomats.

Susilo late Wednesday called on Indonesians "to remain optimistic in facing challenges", a reference to difficulties facing the country ranging from terror attacks, a steep fuel price rise and the spread of the deadly avian influenza.

Vice President Yusuf Kalla also opened his office near the palace and other top officials welcomed Indonesians to their homes or offices to receive traditional greetings after visiting the president themselves.

Hundreds of people also stopped by the home of ex-dictator Soeharto in the Menteng posh residential area of Central Jakarta, where he has remained in seclusion since his downfall in May 1998.

Among those seen paying the aging Soeharto a visit were many of his former aides and officials, as well as businesspeople and artists.

Former state secretary Murdiono told journalists after paying his respects that Soeharto appeared healthy but "has difficulties communicating".

Idul Fitri marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan and is the most important religious festival in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-populated state.

More than 80 percent of the country's some 220 million people follow Islam. (**)




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