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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Indonesia 'not terror weak link'
Guard at conference's exhibition stand
Asia wants to stop Al-Qaeda taking root in Indonesia

The Indonesian defence minister has strongly defended his country against charges that it is the weak link in the US-led campaign against terrorism in South East Asia.

The minister, Matori Abdul Djalil, told a conference on regional security taking place in Singapore that combating terrorism was only one of several priorities for Indonesia at the moment.


Combating terrorism only constitutes one priority at a time when maintaining territorial integrity, recovering the economy, and resolving communal, ethnic and religious conflict have to be given high priority

Matori Abdul Djalil
Unlike other South East Asian countries, Indonesia has not detained Muslim militants suspected of planning attacks in the region.

Much of the talk at this conference has been on how to stop al-Qaeda exploiting chaos in Indonesia to establish bases in the world's largest Muslim nation.

In his opening address, Singapore's senior minister Lee Kuan Yew described in detail a network of Islamic militants broken up by the authorities in Singapore and Malaysia late last year.

The network had been planning attacks on several US, British, Australian and Israeli targets in Singapore, he said.

But some of its alleged ringleaders are still at large in Indonesia.

Muslim reaction

Privately, officials in Singapore and Malaysia have expressed their frustration at Indonesia's failure to detain the suspects.

But Matori Abdul Djalil argued that his government could not take steps that might endanger the country's young and fragile democracy.

Indonesian officials say they do not have the benefit of the draconian laws which allow detention without trial in neighbouring countries.

They also fear an angry reaction from Muslims if they move against Islamic leaders suspected of involvement in the planned attacks.

The US administration now wants to rebuild its ties with the Indonesian military, severed after the destruction of East Timor three years ago.

Like Singapore, Washington sees a modernised armed forces as the best way of containing Islamic militants in Indonesia.

But human rights groups say the military's record is still too poor to justify US support.

See also:

07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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