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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 05:14 GMT 06:14 UK
US may restore Indonesia army ties
Indonesian soldiers
Indonesian forces may now get US training
Indonesia's armed forces have welcomed a move by the US Congress to reinstate military ties which were cut after the 1999 violence in East Timor.

But human rights groups are angry at the sponsored training that Indonesian soldiers could now get with US cash.

Imet and Indonesia
US first gave training in 1952
Programme suspended in 1999
Senate committee now approved $400,000 for 2003 scheme
The US Senate's appropriations committee passed an amendment to lift restrictions on the Indonesian forces taking part in the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training (Imet) programme.

There are still several stages to go before the bill becomes law, but the approval of $400,000 for Indonesia to take part in the Imet scheme is the first move towards warming military ties since they were severed in 1999 in protest against violence by Jakarta-backed militia in East Timor.

A spokesman for the Indonesian military, Major-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, told the Jakarta Post newspaper that the Senate decision was welcomed, but details of the training to be offered still had to be worked out.

"I guess the working group will first of all ask for non-combat strategy training from the US military," he said.

"But since combating terrorism has become our commitment, maybe we can exchange experiences with the US in dealing with this issue."

'Enables understanding'

Indonesia's top security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also greeted the nascent warming of ties.

"Imet programmes are good because they also enable the United States to understand the logic of conflicts in Indonesia," he said.

An American official in Jakarta had warned that the continued violence in the northern province of Aceh could affect the resumption of military ties.

The Indonesian armed forces and the separatist guerrilla Free Aceh Movement blame each other for attacks which leave, on average, 10 people dead every day.


The army... is involved in drug smuggling, prostitution, human trafficking, illegal logging and many other illicit enterprises

US Senator Patrick Leahy
Munir, founder of Indonesia's most prominent human rights organisation Kontras, said the US Congress action was "a very dangerous move".

"The military badly needs this endorsement from the United States in order to further legitimise its meddling in politics [and] human rights violations," he said.

The approval of the change in the US Senate was not unanimous, with Senator Patrick Leahy speaking against the renewed funding.

Mr Leahy, who sponsored the suspension of the Imet programme until Indonesia brought to justice those guilty of human rights abuses in East Timor, said there had not been enough change.

"The army... is involved in drug smuggling, prostitution, human trafficking, illegal logging and many other illicit enterprises," he said.



See also:

10 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
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