Subject: CT: Time US 'renewed ties' with region

The Canberra Times

June 19, 2001 Tuesday Final Edition

Time US 'renewed ties' with region


A leading United States congressman, who is a major supporter of the alliance with Australia, has called for America to renew its military ties with Indonesia's navy, air force and marines, but not its army.

Playing down what he called the difficult issue of human rights, Republican Congressman Doug Bereuter has told the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think-tank, that Indonesia was strategically too important to ignore.

'I encourage the Bush administration to pursue engagement with the Indonesian military, giving preference to the more reform-minded navy, air force, and marines at the expense of the distrusted Indonesian army,' Mr Bereuter said.

Since the 1999 Leahy amendment, the US (like Australia) has banned giving aid or training to the Indonesian armed forces until officers involved in war crimes were prosecuted.

But Mr Bereuter told the foundation that the decision by the US Congress to suspend its International Military Education and Training program and the denial of human rights training had 'eroded' US influence with the Indonesian military.

A report from Indonesia at the weekend claimed the Bush administration had made some new moves to increase US engagement with Indonesia.

They fell well short at this stage of lifting the Leahy amendment and Australia is continuing to call for the prosecution of military officers who may have committed war crimes in East Timor.

Mr Bereuter said, 'It is appropriate to insist that the armed forces abide by internationally respected human rights, but we must also recognise that the Indonesian military remains a major political force and ultimately has a role to play as a final guarantor of Indonesia's security and stability.'

Mr Bereuter, who visited Australia during the East Timor crisis, also said Australia was America's closest friend in the Asia Pacific region, second only to Japan in significance.

'Australia is more than just an ally. For America, it is the country in the region with which we have our deepest friendship,' he said.

'Small in population, Australia has nonetheless unfailingly joined the US in protecting our mutual national security interests around the globe.

'Our alliance with Australia and our close bond with the Australian people do not always elicit much attention, but it is one of America's crucial strategic partnerships. We should pay more attention to Australia and do more to show our appreciation of this special relationship.' Australia pays price Page 9

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