Subject: Rice Backs Resuming Indonesia Military Training

Sun Feb 27, 2005 01:24 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department has recommended that U.S. military training resume in Indonesia after a break of more than a decade, as Washington seeks closer military ties with the world's largest Muslim nation.

In an announcement Saturday, the department said Indonesia had met conditions set by Congress for re-establishing the training relationship.

"The department expects that Indonesia's resumption of full international military education and training will strengthen its ongoing democratic progress and advance cooperation in other areas of mutual concern," the statement said.

Formal military relations were cut with Indonesia in the early 1990s because of suspected human-rights violations by Indonesian forces. However, some counterterrorism training was resumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as Washington sought to enlist Jakarta's help for the U.S. war on global terrorism.

The Bush administration has previously tried to revive close ties with Indonesia's military, but the effort faltered after two American school teachers were murdered in the province of Papua in 2002.

Investigations by police and nongovernmental organizations pointed to Indonesian military involvement in the murders.

The U.S. Congress made any resumption of U.S. military training for Indonesian officers dependent on certification that Jakarta was helping the FBI investigate the killings.

Boucher said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had determined that Indonesia's government and armed forces were cooperating.

U.S. military aid was cut after Indonesian troops killed 57 demonstrators in East Timor in 1991, when the territory was part of Indonesia. Indonesia has not participated in the full training program since 1992.

Supporters of the training program say it helps forge close relations between the civilian-led U.S. military and the armies of countries Washington is trying to influence.

Although often overshadowed by other Asian giants like China and Japan, Indonesia is a key to regional stability which for 50 years had close military ties with the United States.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz visited Indonesia last month to review tsunami damage and announce a desire for a closer military relationship. Washington made a temporary exception to military-aid restrictions to provide spare parts for planes delivering relief to tsunami victims.

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