Bernard Dowiyogo, 57, president of the tiny Pacific island republic of Nauru, died March 9 at George Washington University Medical Center after surgery for a heart ailment.

President Dowiyogo, whose heart condition was a byproduct of a diabetic condition for which he had been treated since the early 1970s, was in Washington on business.

Nauru is an eight-square-mile island about halfway between Australia and Hawaii with a population of about 12,300.

President Dowiyogo became an elected member of Nauru's 18-seat parliament in 1973.

He served his first term as president from 1976 to 1978 after ousting the island's head chief and first president, Hammer DeRoburt, who had helped Nauru win its independence from Australia in 1968.

President Dowiyogo again served as president from 1989 to 1995, for 15 days in 1996, in 1998 and 1999, and in 2000 and 2001 before taking office for the last time in January 2003.

During the 1980s, he gained a reputation as a radical in South Pacific politics, attacking France for its nuclear tests in French Polynesia and the United States for devastating parts of the Marshall Islands, northeast of Nauru, with nuclear tests there and missile tests at Kwajalein Atoll.

He achieved a reputation as being one of his phosphate-enriched country's more pragmatic, sensible and businesslike leaders. But he never led long enough to stem the waste and corruption that was rife among the nation's leadership.

Nauru's once-prosperous fortunes have declined over the years as its mining industry declined and successive governments squandered its fortune.

Its budget deficit last year was estimated at $15 million, or almost half of its gross domestic product.

In 2001, Nauru agreed to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers from Australia in return for more than $10.6 million a year in aid.

President Dowiyogo's survivors include his wife and four children.

President Bernard Dowiyogo died after heart surgery in Washington.