Subject: AFP: Powell meets Indonesian trade minister

Agence France Presse

February 2, 2001, Friday

Powell meets Indonesian trade minister


Indonesia's Trade Minister and Industry Minister Luhut Panjaitan told US Secretary of State Colin Powell Friday his country would use democratic and constitutional means to work through its political turmoil, officials said.

The two men held talks at the State Department and Powell was given a summary of recent events in Indonesia, spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Their meeting came as Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid rejected calls for his resignation after he was censured by parliament over financial scandals, and amid Indonesia's continuing ethnic and territorial conflicts.

The talks focused on the "current situation in Indonesia and how Indonesia would work through a democratic and constitutional process," said Boucher.

Some of the ethnic, territorial and political conflicts raging in Indonesia were also on the agenda, Boucher said, and the minister stressed "the importance of dialogue" in solving them.

Boucher said the United States wanted to help Indonesia, the unity of which is seen by many analysts as crucial to strategic stability in Southeast Asia, subject to certain conditions.

In the past, the United States has expressed concern over alleged human rights abuses by Indonesia's armed forces.

It has also called on Jakarta to ensure the safety of aid workers and refugees in camps in West Timor which are packed with people who fled militia violence which erupted when East Timor voted for independence in 1999.

Recent US criticisms of Indonesia have recently met an angry response from some ministers in the Jakarta government which peaked with a war of words last year involving US ambassador to Robert Gelbard.

Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab last month said he was hopeful that the new US administration of George W. Bush would lift an arms embargo imposed by his predecessor Bill Clinton over East Timor.

No comment on the talks was available from Indonesia's embassy in Washington.

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