Subject: DPA: Indonesia says U.S. clamp on military aid a 'domestic matter'

Indonesia says U.S. clamp on military aid a 'domestic matter'

JAKARTA (DPA, Oct. 31, 2003): Indonesia described on Friday the recent decision by the U.S. Senate to hold back on educational training for the country's armed forces as a "domestic matter" for American politicians.

"This is part of the (political) process between the U.S. administration and Capitol Hill," said foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa, responding to a decision by the U.S. Senate earlier this week to halt a military training and educational assistance programme with Indonesia.

The U.S. stopped its International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme with the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) in 1992 in response to a brutal massacre in East Timor.

The programme was given an official go-ahead to resume last year with a budget of 400,000 dollars, but was halted again after the slaying of two American nationals and one Indonesian in an ambush in Timika, Papua, on August 31, last year.

Initial police investigations into the attack on two vans carrying American and Indonesian teachers working at the Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc's international school, implicated TNI members among the chief suspects in the murders.

But Natalegawa pointed out that the statement issued last week by President George W. Bush during his visit to Bali said the two countries "hailed a positive cooperation between Indonesia and the United States to uncover the perpetrators of the killing".

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to cut off the 400,000 dollar IMET programme to Indonesia to show displeasure over Jakarta's response to the killings. A similar ban was also passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July.

While the amount at stake is not large, supporters of the move said it would send a message that the United States wanted a proper probe of the killing of the two American teachers, said reports from Washington. "We are comfortable with our record (in handling the case). Moreover, the U.S. government has confirmed that the existing obstacle now is at Capitol Hill. Maybe we have to assure them that the situation is not as they thought," Natalegawa said.

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