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Bush hails Indonesia as vital partner in war on terror JAKARTA - US President George W Bush has described Indonesia as a vital partner and friend of America during a three-hour lightning stop in Bali. Mr Bush said he appreciated what he called Indonesia's strong support in the war on terror. He also announced he would propose to Congress a six-year programme worth US$157 million to support basic education in Indonesia to aid efforts to build a system that discourages extremism.
An aide to the US president had described this stop as the trip to "al-Qaeda hell" but Mr Bush remained adamant about dropping in. His wave was enthusiastic and so was the tone of the trip. Both sides are huge democracies with pluralist traditions. The US and Indonesia were keen to downplay differences despite tensions in relations over the Iraq invasion, lopsided views on the Middle East quagmire and misconceptions of religious intolerance.
"Despite the fact that we do not always share common perspectives but we both continue to hold mutual understanding that it is to the interest of the two countries to maintain consultation and cooperation in the pursuit of global peace," Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said. "We know that Islam is fully compatible with liberty and tolerance and progress because we see the proof in your country and in our own," Mr Bush said.
"Terrorists who claim Islam as their inspiration defile one of the world's great faiths. Murder has no place in any religious tradition and must find no home in Indonesia." The US president has said he is concerned a few killers had helped define Indonesia. Indonesia, Mr Bush also said, needs to make clear to the world it values peace. So to help win hearts and minds, the US administration will pump in money to promote a basic education that rejects militancy.
Indonesia's religious boarding schools have come under intense scrutiny, some for breeding intolerance and hatred. Security was unprecedented and warships dotted the seaside backdrop of the news conference; the Bush administration was clearly eager to show all is well. But protests have dogged the US president in Asia and Indonesia was no exception. Anti-American feelings have burgeoned even amongst leading and moderate Indonesian figures, who believe the US is insincere and hypocritical in its foreign policy.
But the visit hasn't been dismissed by all. "At least it's a good start for bridging mutual understanding and for avoiding any suspicion among each other," said Syafi'i Anwar of the International Islam & Pluralism Centre. It will take a lot more to counter the antipathy towards the US here but clearly the US president has signalled his administration wants to start from a position of strength and not dwell on differences.



Posted in General @ 22 October 2003 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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