Subject: NYT & WP: Rice Praises Indonesia As Model of 'Tolerance' [+ST]

also: NYT: Rice, in Indonesia, Supports Renewed Military Assistance; and ST: US push to strengthen ties with Indonesia

The Washington Post

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rice Praises Indonesia As Model of 'Tolerance'

Some Misunderstand U.S., She Says

By Ellen Nakashima Washington Post Foreign Service

photo: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Dino Pati Djalal, spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, after she held meetings in Jakarta. (By Achmad Ibrahim -- Associated Press)

JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 14 -- Condoleezza Rice, in her first visit to Indonesia as secretary of state, praised its government Tuesday for setting an example of "moderation, tolerance and inclusiveness," and for urging officials in nearby military-ruled Burma to respect human rights.

At a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, Rice defended the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies, which have aroused criticism and violent protests in many Muslim countries, including Indonesia.

"I understand that the United States has had to do things . . . that are not that popular in much of the world," she said. "We are fighting a very tough enemy, an enemy that has been felt here in Indonesia with bombings in Bali and Jakarta."

She also suggested that the United States is sometimes misunderstood, and she stressed "how much the United States respects people who are of Islamic faith." Before the news conference, Rice visited an Islamic school, where she announced an $8.5 million grant to develop a version of "Sesame Street" for Indonesia.

Meanwhile, several hundred protesters from a radical Islamic group rallied outside the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, shouting slogans against Rice and the United States.

The Bush administration has been eager to demonstrate its support for budding democracies, especially in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.

"I wish Americans could see this Islamic school," Rice told reporters, on the first day of a two-day visit. "Here you have young boys and young girls in their traditions, but learning their national curriculum, working together. . . . I'm sure they're going to be young people who are going to be very capable in the world."

The "Sesame Street" grant is part of a $157 million, five-year program to improve Indonesian education. The program, announced by President Bush on his visit to Bali in October 2003, followed terrorist bombings on the island a year earlier and at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in August 2003. A number of the bombers convicted in those attacks were graduates of Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia.

Some Muslim civic leaders initially were wary that the program might try to change their schools' religious curriculum, but that fear seems to have waned. The program focuses on improving teachers' skills and involving parents, U.S. officials said.

In separate meetings with Wirajuda and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Rice discussed the strengthening relationship between Indonesia and the United States. In November, the Bush administration restored full military ties with Indonesia -- they had been cut in 1999 -- over the objections of human rights activists concerned about alleged abuses by the military.

But the Bush administration has great interest in ensuring that Indonesia cooperates with the United States in its battle to suppress militant strains of Islam. About 90 percent of Indonesia's 240 million people are Muslim. The country is often held up as a model of moderate Islam and of Islam's compatibility with democracy.

"Indonesia is an inspiration to those around the world who struggle with the many differences" people may have "in terms of race, ethnicity and religion," Rice said.

She said she and Indonesian leaders also discussed concerns about Burma, a country that has been under military rule for four decades. In 1990, the National League for Democracy won a landslide election in Burma, but the military did not recognize the results and has continued to suppress political dissidents.

"Great democracies, like Indonesia and like the United States, cannot turn a blind eye to those who still live under oppression," Rice said. She praised Yudhoyono and Wirajuda for their efforts "to try to convince the authorities and the junta in Burma that it is time to join the international community and to respect human rights."

Yudhoyono, in his hour-long meeting with Rice, stressed the importance of education in fighting radicalism, a senior State Department official said.

Rice was originally scheduled to visit in January but postponed the trip, citing what then appeared to be the imminent death of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He remains in a coma. On Wednesday, after making a speech here, Rice will fly to Australia.


The New York Times Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rice, in Indonesia, Supports Renewed Military Assistance


JAKARTA, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 15 — Secretary of State Condoleeezza Rice sought Tuesday to expand a "strategic partnership" with Indonesia, including increased military cooperation, after the decision last year to resume military aid that had long been cut off because of Indonesia's poor human rights record.

In a speech on Wednesday morning, she also sought to assure Indonesia that the United States believed strongly in the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, despite concerns here that the Bush administration had tried to bypass the group and make commercial and trade deals with individual members.

The centerpiece of the speech was a defense of the administration's promotion of democracy in troubled regions. She said Indonesia had proved it was possible to overcome sectarian and ethnic differences and forge a democratic system.

Ms. Rice also said Indonesia had made progress in combating military corruption. "A reformed and effective Indonesian military is in the interest of everyone in this region, because threats to our common security have not disappeared," she said.

Ms. Rice was well received at her speech, to 500 business, academic and civic leaders at the Indonesia World Affairs Council, but she faced pointed questions about American policies, especially in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many in the audience also appeared to feel the United States was heavy-handed in its approach to Southeast Asia.

To a questioner demanding to know why the United States uses force to get its way, Ms. Rice said that it was "rare, very rare, that military power is needed" to bring about change. On American policies toward Indonesia, she said: "It's not paternalism, it's a partnership."

The session reflected what American officials say is lingering distrust of American intentions. Indonesia, for example, has not backed the United States approach to bring Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Also, Indonesia, and several other nations in the region, oppose the American effort to force a cutoff in ties to Myanmar, formerly Burma.

On Tuesday, Ms. Rice and the Indonesian foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda, used the phrase "strategic partnership," reflecting American interest in building this country into a major commercial and military power in Southeast Asia, in part to help counter the influence of China.

In the United States, the Defense Department has been pressing for a resumption of military aid to Indonesia, which was gradually phased out after Indonesian security forces fired on civilians protesting Indonesian rule in East Timor in 1991. East Timor's vote for independence in 1999 removed a major obstacle to the resumption, but human rights groups have opposed the idea.

Ms. Rice stopped here on a swing across the Southern Hemisphere that started in Chile, over the weekend. Next she is going to Australia, another key ally in the South Pacific. State Department officials traveling with her said it was important that she underscore Washington's growing ties with Indonesia since the election of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004. The officials said Mr. Yudhoyono sought to regain civilian control of Indonesia's military, attack corruption and improve the climate for American investment.

Another objective of the trip for Ms. Rice was to try to reach out to Indonesia's predominantly Muslim population, which is distrustful of American intentions because of the Iraq war and the incarceration of terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Her visit here drew hundreds of Islamic hard-liners to protest outside the American Embassy, The Associated Press reported.

Partly because of American help after the tsunami in December 2004, amounting to $400 million in official aid, Indonesian approval ratings for the United States have risen to a high of about 50 percent, American officials said, citing what they said were recent opinion polls. Other polls show the rating to be roughly 40 percent.

Ms. Rice sought to address the concerns of Muslims by touring a Muslim school that receives American funds. She also announced a new program to bring the characters of the television show "Sesame Street" to Indonesian audiences. The United States will provide $135 million this year in assistance to Indonesia.

"Sometimes I think there's a lack of understanding of how much the United States respects the people of Islamic faith," she said at a news conference with the foreign minister.

At the Muslim school, Ms. Rice chatted briefly with several boys and girls in a classroom. Later she said she wished Americans could see that this sort of school was different from the madrasas, seminaries that have a reputation for teaching extremism in many Islamic countries.

Television cameras recorded the event for Indonesian audiences as she shook hands with an actor in an Elmo costume, though she had to be prompted before saying the name.


The Straits Times (Singapore) Wednesday, March 15, 2006

US push to strengthen ties with Indonesia

Rice, in Jakarta, offers praise and promises of more military help

Azhar Ghani , Indonesia Bureau Chief

JAKARTA - THE United States intensified its efforts to strengthen ties with Indonesia yesterday, offering both praise for its religious tolerance and promises of increased military cooperation.

In an hour-long meeting between visiting US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the two countries also agreed to push for peace in both the Korean peninsula and Palestine.

Earlier, Dr Rice said the US would seek to expand its 'strategic partnership' with Indonesia, including increased military assistance.

She said before touching down in Jakarta that the military has 'by no means completely made its reform, but we believe those reforms are underway and that we can have a more positive effect on the reforms by being part of it'.

Few details of the military assistance to Indonesia were available, but the American embassy said that 40 military officers would be trained by the United States.

In addition, the US aid aims to modernise the military and 'provide further incentives for reform' and assist in counter-terrorism, maritime security and disaster relief, the American embassy said.

Dr Rice's talks with President Yudhoyono covered numerous issues of mutual concern, said presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal. He said the President had told Dr Rice that Indonesia supports a Palestine state that would co-exist with Israel, and respects the election process won by Hamas.

In addition, they called for an increase in bilateral cooperation between the two countries to combat bird flu, which has so far claimed 22 lives in Indonesia, said the spokesman.

The meeting was the highlight of the American secretary of state's first trip - a two-day visit - to Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.

Dr Rice was on a charm offensive from the word 'go'.

'What we respect about Indonesia is that, along with other religious groups, people live in harmony and in tolerance,' she said at a joint press conference with her Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda.

Dr Rice also appealed for understanding on US policies, and said America had great respect for Muslims, but had been misunderstood.

She added: 'I understand that the US has had to do things in the world that are not that popular in much of the world. We are fighting a very tough enemy, an enemy that has been felt here in Indonesia with bombings in Bali and Jakarta.'

Her itinerary yesterday also included a visit to an Islamic school in Jakarta, Madrasah Al-Ma'muriyah.

There, she announced a US$8.5 million (S$14 million) grant from the US government to create an Indonesian version of the popular children's educational television programme Sesame Street.

The madrasah visit was also a subtle opportunity for the US to highlight its US$157 million education initiative for Indonesia, which currently covers 990 schools and will grow to some 9,000 over the life of the programme.

Nevertheless, her first day in Jakarta was marred by a 600-strong anti-US demonstration - first held outside the US embassy, before moving to the palace later.

Analysts say Indonesia is becoming strategically more important to the US as China's influence in the region grows.

Indonesia can also potentially play a useful diplomatic role in several issues with strong US interests: democracy in Myanmar, the Iran nuclear crisis, and a Palestianian Authority government led by militant group Hamas.

In Myanmar's case, Dr Yudhoyono had visited the country earlier this month and urged the military-ruled fellow member of the Asean to deliver on promises of moving towards democracy.

And, with a population of 220 million that is 80 per cent Muslim, Indonesia's weight could count in the Iran and Palestine issues.

----------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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