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U.S. Ban on Indonesia Military Ties Ends

November 23, 2005|From Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The United States has restored military ties with Indonesia, ending a six-year ban on such contact with the world's most populous Muslim nation imposed because of human rights concerns, the U.S. State Department said.

The Bush administration, which announced the move Tuesday in Washington, has long argued that isolating Indonesia was not in America's interests.

The action drew immediate criticism from rights groups.

"With the stroke of a pen, Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice and President Bush betrayed the untold tens of thousands of victims of the Indonesian military's brutality in Indonesia and East Timor," said John Miller of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.

Congress cut U.S. ties with Indonesia's military in 1999 after Jakarta's troops were accused of taking part in violence in East Timor during that territory's secession.

Limited ties had been restored under the Bush administration -- chiefly a small officer-training program.

The State Department used a national security waiver to remove the restrictions, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

"Indonesia is a voice of moderation in the Islamic world," he said.

"The administration considers the relationship between the United States and Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy, to be of the utmost importance."

McCormack said that the administration planned to help modernize the Indonesian military and support U.S. and Indonesian security objectives, including counter-terrorism, but that Washington "remained committed to pressing for accountability for past human rights abuses."

The administration has argued that the ban should be lifted to help build Indonesia into a bulwark against Al Qaeda infiltration in Southeast Asia, where the Jemaah Islamiah group has launched several attacks.

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