Former Indonesian dictator Suharto was on the mend and expected to recover from a potentially deadly blood infection after being near death this week.


Former Indonesian president Suharto, accompanied by his daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, left, is taken out of a hospital room after a nuclear imaging procedure Jan. 8. ((Suara Pembaruan/Didit Majalolo/Associated Press))

Physicians in Jakarta said the 86-year-old was conscious and responsive, and may emerge from critical condition if his health continues to improve.

"We're optimistic," presidential Dr. Marjo Subiandono told reporters Saturday.

Suharto was hospitalized two weeks ago for multiple organ failure, and developed pneumonia and sepsis, a potentially deadly infection of the blood. He has received dialysis for failing kidneys and a blood transfusion.

Media outlets were on the former president's death watch this week, while doctors have said he was near his end.

Suharto was still attached to a ventilator Saturday, but was successfully battling his blood infection, Subiandono said. His heart and lung capacity had also improved.

"Most of his sepsis symptoms have gone," said Dr. Harryanto Reksodiputro, a hematologist, who added that Suharto's white blood cell count was still high.

A series of strokes in recent years left Suharto with permanent brain damage and impaired speech, which prevented him from facing a trial on charges of corruption and widespread human rights violations during his 30-year rule.

With files from the Associated Press