Subject: US Senator Says Wiranto Wrong Choice For Indonesian President

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Associated Press April 29, 2004

US Senator Says Wiranto Wrong Choice For Indonesian Pres

JAKARTA (AP)--A U.S. lawmaker who authored a bill freezing military ties with Indonesia following violence in East Timor in 1999 said Thursday an indicted general running for president should be brought to justice for his alleged role in that conflict.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, also said a victory by Gen. Wiranto in the July 5 presidential election would be "highly unfortunate" and that Indonesia needed a leader "who respects democratic values, human rights and the rule of law."

"General Wiranto was in command when the Indonesian Army orchestrated the atrocities in East Timor, he was indicted for those crimes, and he should be brought to justice," Leahy said in a statement from Washington.

"It would be highly unfortunate if someone of his background were to become Indonesia's president."

Leahy's comments are the strongest yet from Washington since Wiranto won the nomination of Golkar, the country's largest political party, last week.

Public opinion surveys show Wiranto is trailing far behind front-runner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Last year, Wiranto was indicted by a U.N.-funded tribunal for allowing Indonesian soldiers to kill more than 1,500 people and destroy much of the half-island province.

The U.S. Congress reacted by placing strict curbs on military-to-military ties between the two countries that remain in place to this day.

U.S. diplomats in Jakarta have refrained from commenting directly on Wiranto's candidacy.

Wiranto's nomination, however, sparked protests by rights groups, which described him as a war criminal. East Timorese leaders said a Wiranto presidency would turn Indonesia into an international pariah.

Wiranto has denied the charges and said they are aimed at derailing his candidacy. His campaign spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday.


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