Subject: AP: US Military Ties With Indonesia Depends On Timor Trials

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

US Military Ties With Indonesia Depends On Timor Trials

JAKARTA, April 25 (AP)--The outcome of trials of Indonesian officers accused of human rights crimes in East Timor is crucial to the normalization of military ties between Jakarta and Washington, a U.S. official said.

Indonesian and U.S. defense officials reviewing security in Indonesia and the region ended two days of talks Thursday.

The U.S. is seeking closer security cooperation with Indonesia in the war against international terror, but it wants to see the Indonesian army take "clear steps" to account for its role in East Timor in 1999 before full military ties resume, the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

Hundreds were killed in East Timor in 1999 after the territory voted for independence from Indonesia. Critics allege the carnage was masterminded by sections of the Indonesian military. The U.S. suspended military training and weapons sales to Jakarta in response.

In March, an ad hoc court in Jakarta began hearing trials of 18 senior Indonesian officials and high-ranking officers charged with crimes against humanity in the East Timor violence.

The U.S. official said the tribunal would test Indonesia's commitment to accounting for the role of its army in East Timor. "All the world is watching to see what kind results come out of it. Then we'll all have to decide" on whether to resume ties, he said.

Congressional legislation bars normalization until the army also demonstrates a commitment to greater civilian control and accountability.

"We want to engage with the Indonesian military," U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the legislation, said in an e-mail interview. "But they need to demonstrate a commitment to reform. So far, we have not seen that."

Indonesian defense officials, seeking early normalization, say the army has all but abandoned its role in politics. The army agreed to the Timor trials and has started human rights training for its soldiers, the officials say.

In light of the war on terrorism, these arguments are getting a sympathetic ear from some in the Pentagon and Congress, who have supported increased military contacts.

Congressional hawks inserted a provision in a Defense Appropriations Act earlier this year that sets aside $18 million for counterterrorism training in Asia. Indonesian officials hope security forces get some of the funds, which have yet to be allocated.

Some Congressmen have proposed a bill for supplemental appropriations due to be considered in Congress next month. It includes $8 million "to vet, train and equip a counterterrorism unit in Indonesia."

Another $8 million "would support the training of civilian and military personnel in support of humanitarian and peacekeeping activities in Indonesia."

The proposal still falls far short of normal relations, the U.S. official said. "It is an effort to enhance cooperation with Indonesia on the counterterrorism front and still be true to the current policy," he said.

Before 1999, Indonesia depended on Washington for much of its weapons procurement. The Indonesian military has complained the suspension of ties left many of its F-16 jets grounded by lack of spare parts.

"We've learned a lesson from this," an Indonesian Foreign Ministry official said. "The lesson is to not depend on one country."

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