Subject: Indonesia Again Appeals for Easing of US Arms Embargo

Indonesia again appeals for easing of US arms embargo

JAKARTA, July 6 (AFP) - Indonesia's defense minister repeated his call Thursday for the United States to ease its arms embargo against the country, particularly for spare parts.

"We are seeking the lifting of a ban on sales of spare parts we need for some defense system equipment, such the Hercules aircraft," Yowono Sudarsono told journalists before attending a seminar on the economy.

"The (Hercules) spare parts need to be replaced because they have exceeded 100 flight hours," he added.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington Wednesday that the arms embargo would remain in place, despite complaints it ties Jakarta's hands as it battles rampant religious violence.

Boucher said Indonesia had yet to satisfy a series of conditions imposed by the US Congress. "At this point, there's no plan to resume defense item sales or transfers," he said.

Sudarsono said the lack of spare parts could compromise flight safety and hamper relief efforts in riot-hit areas such as the Maluku Islands.

"What is more important is the role of the Hercules to transport food and medical supplies for refugees quickly," Sudarsono said. "We also need rapid movement of troops and police to quell unrest," he added.

The embargo was imposed by the US Congress last year after the Indonesian military was widely blamed for whipping up a wave of deadly militia violence when East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence.

Indonesia stepped up its campaign for a reversal of the embargo Wednesday with an interview in the Washington Post by Sudarsono.

Sudarsono said the military was suffering a chronic shortage of spare parts due to the embargo, and had been forced to pull back several cargo planes and patrol boats needed in the Malakus, where some 4,000 people have died since sectarian clashes erupted there in January 1999.

To end the embargo, Washington says Indonesia must rein in militias reported to be barring thousands of East Timorese from returning home from camps in West Timor.

The government is also required to bring prominent military figures allegedly responsible for the East Timor violence to justice.

Boucher reiterated the US belief that Indonesia's government and military waited too long to combat the violence in the Malakus.

Washington does, however, support the recent declaration of a state of civil emergency in the area and is "deeply concerned" at the violence in the region, he said.


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