Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, Indonesia's new president, has been a friend of President Suharto since boyhood.

A weary Suharto announced his resignation Thursday and immediately named Habibie to finish his current term, which ends in 2003. There was no mention of a transitional government or elections by the end of the year, which government opponents had demanded.Suharto's hand-picked assembly approved Habibie as vice president in March, 20 years after he first entered Suharto's Cabinet.

Before becoming vice president, Habibie served as research and technology minister, where he became controversial for developing an ambitious aircraft-making industry and proposing that earthquake-prone Indonesia build nuclear reactors.

Commonly known by his initials B.J., Habibie, 61, has been a close civilian adviser to Suharto and serves as chairman on more than a dozen boards, many of them in science and research.

Once labeled a "high-tech dreamer" by a newspaper, Habibie has his own Internet site, and model airplanes adorn his office desk.

He also has backed costly high-tech projects - ones that counter the spirit of austerity reforms that Suharto signed under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF has been leading a $43 billion bailout for Indonesia that started in 1997.

As the sponsor of such costly projects, Habibie is viewed as a liability by market traders and mistrusted by some in the powerful military for his decisions on arms spending.

Habibie has known Suharto since he was 13, when Suharto was posted as a junior army officer to Habibie's hometown on the island of Sulawesi. Suharto often visited and ate meals at Habibie's family home, and a lasting bond formed between the two.

"They are like father and son," a retired army general once said.

Habibie graduated with a doctorate in engineering from Rheinisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule in Aachen, Germany.

He later spent 18 years working at German aircraft maker Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm Gmbh as an aerospace research scientist and executive before returning to Indonesia to launch a political career under Suharto's patronage.