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Protests heat up in Jakarta

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Supporters and opponents of Indonesia's embattled head of state pelted each other with rocks and bottles Wednesday in a third day of protests, as the administration faced new accusations of financial impropriety.

About 1,200 students opposed to President Abdurrahman Wahid marched past a downtown campus loyal to him and demanded he resign. At least three Wahid supporters were badly beaten in the subsequent clashes, witnesses said. Meanwhile, about 1,000 supporters rallied outside the presidential palace.

Legislators, who want to impeach Wahid over two corruption scandals, said Wednesday they would investigate what they claimed was the suspicious transfer of $300,000 in cash to Wahid's entourage at the start of a pilgrimage this month to Islam's holy city of Mecca. The money was hastily delivered by a state-owned jetliner from Jakarta just before Wahid's arrival in Saudi Arabia on March 2.

Palace officials confirmed Wednesday that the cash had been flown to aides traveling with Wahid and a group about 100 politicians and associates. They said the money was used to pay last-minute expenses, particularly for accommodations.

Wahid has not commented on the allegations. He has already been harshly criticized for going to Mecca.

Opponents say that he should have abandoned the trip and returned to Indonesia to address gruesome ethnic violence on Borneo island that resulted in the slaughter of more than 450 people and the evacuation of tens of thousands.

Students gathered Wednesday outside the official residence of Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is constitutionally the potential successor to Wahid.

"Now is the time for Wahid to resign," they chanted, urging her to convene a special session of the legislature to impeach the president.

Megawati is the daughter of Indonesia's first president and her party holds the biggest portion of seats in the parliament. Despite her popularity, she has so far remained silent about the deepening political crisis.

Protests were also reported in other parts of Indonesia. More than 1,000 anti-Wahid students rallied in downtown Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province. Raising fears of violence, an East Java paramilitary group made up of Muslims loyal to Wahid's political party said thousands were bound for the capital to defend him.

Wahid, who came to office 17 months ago as Indonesia's first freely elected leader in four decades, has refused to quit he was implicated in two multimillion dollar corruption scandals. He has also been criticized for failing to fix the nation's economy and for not quelling outbreaks of communal violence in troublespots across the sprawling archipelago nation.

In another development, police stormed a prison in Jakarta early Wednesday after about 2,000 inmates rioted overnight. Police shot one prisoner to death and injured three, prison wardens said.