PRESIDENT Suharto yesterday began throwing a ring of steel around his capital ahead of an expected showdown with hundreds of thousands of protesters who are planning to converge on Jakarta next week. Tanks of the elite Kostrad forces spread out from central Jakarta to shore up his teetering rule ahead of Wednesday's protests, expected to attract students and supporters from other walks of life. A large part of Kostrad's 40,000-strong strategic reserve felt confident enough to move out of the central area yesterday, military sources said. They would be fully deployed by Wednesday. Students increasingly fear a confrontation when simultaneous demonstrations are staged in 30 cities on Wednesday. The archipelago's five private television stations have already been barred by the Information Ministry from broadcasting footage of political rallies. Students continued to work an increasingly extensive underground network to ensure support for peaceful protest spreads from campuses to the population at large. 'Students from all over Indonesia are coming to Jakarta,' one student said. 'The police won't allow this, they will block the roads leading into Jakarta.' Amid a continuing exodus by foreigners and ethnic Chinese, the capital was quiet but tense yesterday as acrid smoke from dozens of fires drifted across the city and the full extent of looting and violence started to emerge. The military said yesterday the number of dead was 499, after 113 bodies were pulled from a Ramayana department store in south Jakarta - one of four large plazas turned into blazing deathtraps by looters. Rioting, looting and burning was also reported from Surabaya and Solo in Java. In nearby Yogyakarta, stores were shut amid fears of renewed violence. In a bid to appease his increasingly unified opponents, President Suharto promised - through house Speaker Harmoko - a ministerial reshuffle. No details were given of changes to the cabinet Mr Suharto appointed in March in an attempt to prove his commitment to reforms mandated under the International Monetary Fund's US$43 billion (HK$332.8 billion) financial bailout. It was unclear what new policies would result from any shake-up. The current line-up includes several members of Mr Suharto's family and close business associates. Mr Suharto also met university professors, while his Defence Minister, General Wiranto, revealed for the first time that live bullets had been used to kill students at Trisakti University - the act which sparked the worst violence in Jakarta in the President's 32-year rule. General Wiranto blamed indiscipline and 'wrong procedures', but did not say which branch of the vast security apparatus had been responsible. 'ABRI [the armed forces] has no need to kill its brothers,' he said, amid growing speculation among diplomats that the use of more deadly force by the military would divide top generals. Mr Suharto, 76, repeated to university leaders that he would step down if the people no longer trusted him, but again insisted his retirement should be 'constitutional'. The president is elected by the 1,000-member People's Consultative Assembly, which is not due to meet until Mr Suharto's current term ends in 2003 - which has led to considerable doubt about his real desire to stand down. 'He is president not because he wants to be, but because it is based on a responsibility put on his shoulders by the legislature,' University of Indonesia Chancellor Santosa quoted Mr Suharto as saying.