Subject: Indonesian Military Can Do Without US Aid -Military Chief

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Indonesian Military Can Do Without US Aid -Military Chief

JAKARTA, July 18 (AP)--Indonesia's military chief said Friday the country's armed forces didn't need American aid after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block training funds until Jakarta fully investigates an ambush last year that killed two Americans.

"Until now, we have not received any aid, and we could still go ahead," Gen. Endriartono Sutarto told reporters after a ceremony to send off 175 Indonesian soldiers to join U.N. peacekeeping troops in Congo.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the addition of an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act which, if enacted, would withhold military education and training funds until Jakarta fully investigates the killings. A similar effort is taking place in the Senate.

The training fund was to be the first aid package from the U.S. since it stopped military assistance to the Indonesian military in 1999 after East Timor's bloody break from Jakarta rule. The aid ban will likely further chill ties between Indonesia and the U.S..

In August 2002, American teachers Rick Spier and Ted Burgon were killed when gunmen ambushed their vehicles as they headed to a picnic in Papua province. Eight others were wounded, including a 6-year-old child.

After initial police reports that the military may have been involved, the police were removed from the case and it was assigned to the military, which has exonerated itself.

"Our investigation shows there was no involvement of a member of the Indonesian armed forces," Sutarto said Friday.

However, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the investigation was continuing and that the vote to halt the training programs was premature.

"We regret the hasty decision. The investigation is still ongoing," he said.

Several FBI agents visited Papua for the second time last month to investigate the killings. It is unclear whether they have returned to the U.S..

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FBI team leaves Jakarta, heat rises in Papua probe

By Dean Yates

JAKARTA, July 18 (Reuters) - FBI agents have taken evidence from last year's killing of two American schoolteachers in Indonesia's restive Papua province back to the United States, just as U.S. lawmakers turn up the heat over the murders.

National police spokesman Zainuri Lubis told Reuters on Friday the FBI team, put at five by police, visited Papua during more than two weeks in Indonesia. He said the FBI would do forensic tests on the evidence, although he did not know what was taken.

The United States has warned Jakarta over the ramifications should the world's most populous Muslim nation fail to cooperate in resolving what political analysts say has become the most sensitive issue in U.S.-Indonesian ties.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives moved to block Jakarta from receiving military training assistance funds, known as IMET, complaining it had conducted a lax investigation of the August 2002 attack in Papua that also killed an Indonesian.

Analysts have said Indonesia's cooperation with the FBI, partly by allowing enough evidence to be taken out, could be critical to determining what next steps might be taken.

"They took evidence needed from the field. They have taken the evidence back to the U.S. for forensic tests," Lubis said.

The FBI team, on its second visit, left two or three days ago. The U.S. embassy in Jakarta had no immediate comment.

Plenty is at stake over the ambush, when gunmen sprayed a convoy of mainly American schoolteachers and their families with gunfire near a giant mine operated by U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. No one has been charged over the killings.

According to U.S. Congressional documents obtained by Reuters on Friday, the incident "appears likely to have been perpetrated at least in part by members of the Indonesian military."

The teachers killed worked at a school serving Freeport's expatriate staff.

DENIAL

Indonesian police have previously said some weapons used were of the same type as those carried by troops stationed nearby, but that it was too early to point fingers at the military.

The military has blamed Papuan rebels. It has strenuously denied any involvement. Some Papuan human rights groups say military elements could have staged the ambush to discredit the rebels or get higher payment for their security role at Freeport.

Soldiers provide the main security for Freeport's mine in Papua, where a low-level rebellion has simmered for decades.

Sidney Jones, head of the respected International Crisis Group think tank in Indonesia, said she believed Jakarta had finally realised how serious Washington was taking the probe.

"I think that people who have direct contact with the Americans do, I don't think they did in the beginning," she said.

The U.S. House vote blocks less than $1 million from the International Military Education and Training program for fiscal 2004. Some $400,000 for IMET has been passed for 2003 but not been disbursed. Analysts said that could now be held up over the Papua case.

Although small, IMET benefits the military and human rights groups have said it would be seen as a strong endorsement of the Indonesian military should it resume.

Fiscal 2003 IMET would be the first since it was cut in the early 1990s over violence in East Timor. Overall military ties were largely severed in 1999 after East Timor's bloody vote to break from Indonesian rule.

The chill in military ties following East Timor had only begun to improve through cooperation in the war on terrorism.


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