Subject: FEER: US Ambassador vs. Indonesian Military?

Intelligence 04/20/2000 Far Eastern Economic Review Page 10

Admiral Vs. Ambassador

It took some hard talking to get the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Robert Gelbard, to go along with Adm. Dennis Blair's visit to the country earlier this month. Gelbard himself denies there was any serious disagreement, but U.S. and other diplomatic sources say he objected on the grounds that Indonesia had to first reform its military and show a willingness to address refugee and militia problems in West Timor . Gelbard finally relented after Blair agreed not to pay a call on Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono or other civilian leaders, according to senior State Department sources. One senior U.S. official says Gelbard was right to make sure the visit would occur "in such a way as not to reinforce the wrong elements in the Indonesian military." During his visit, Blair, U.S. commander in the Pacific, publicly criticized the human-rights record of the Indonesian army and said it would be a long time before military cooperation was resumed.

Indonesian Irritations

In what may be a tit-for-tat response to the severing of U.S. military assistance, Indonesian authorities have been holding up vital supplies destined for a U.S. navy medical unit that has been researching tropical diseases in Indonesia for three decades, well-placed diplomatic sources say. In one case, delays in customs affected a shipment of vaccine that the Indonesian military itself had requested to combat a virulent strain of malaria. There has also been concern at Indonesian reluctance to allow the U.S. embassy's C-12 plane to fly to different parts of the archipelago. Most recently, it took U.S. ambassador Robert Gelbard's personal intervention with Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab before Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono finally permitted him to use the small prop-driven plane on an official visit to East Timor . Nevertheless, Juwono, on a visit to Washington, asked for assistance in modernizing Indonesia's armed forces. He said the government needed help in bringing the military fully under civilian control -- a process he believed would take up to 15 years.

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