Subject: Jakarta, East Timor hail Colin Powell

Indonesian Observer December 19, 2000

Jakarta, East Timor hail Powell

JAKARTA (IO) - Indonesia and East Timor yesterday welcomed the nomination of Colin Powell as US secretary of state, while officials confirmed that President Abdurrahman Wahid will probably attend next month's inauguration of US President-elect George W. Bush.

Describing Powell as a man of "glorious achievements", Foreign Affairs Minister Alwi Shihab said he hopes the new secretary of state will strengthen bilateral ties between Jakarta and Washington.

"I think Colin Powell is an interesting person because he is widely accepted by the American public," Shihab told journalists. "The US is a friend which should not be despised. It helps us a lot."

Powell (63), a Gulf War hero, was named by Bush as his secretary of state on Saturday. He is the first African-American to be named for the post in US history.

Shihab said he has sent a congratulatory letter to Powell and also wrote to Powell's predecessor Madeleine Albright to express Indonesia's gratitude for her cooperation.

The minister said he will try to meet his US counterpart when he next visits Washington.

Indonesia-US relations were strained two months ago when US Ambassador Robert Gelbard became embroiled in a fiery war of words with senior cabinet members, particularly Defense Minister Muhammad Mahfud.

Some officials were unhappy over Gelbard's public remarks on developments here, notably on Indonesia's perceived poor human rights record and the government's failure to rein in the rampaging East Timorese militias.

East Timor's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta hailed the appointment of Powell as secretary of state and that of Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser, saying their nominations are reassuring to East Timor.

"I was so pleased and touched by President-elect Bush's announcement of the appointment of the new secretary of state and national security adviser," Ramos-Horta was quoted by AFP as saying in Singapore.

"There could be no more sensitive, reliable people at the helm of US foreign policy because of their particular background," he said in a speech organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

"I believe we will also have a very sensitive engagement by the US at least in regard to East Timor, if not in regard to the rest of the world."

Wahid likely to meet Bush

Shihab said Wahid is likely to attend a 45-minute ceremony scheduled for January 20, when Bush will be sworn-in as the 43rd US president.

However, he said the president has not yet decided whether to attend, despite calls from many people for him to accept Bush's invitation.

Shihab agreed that Wahid should attend the inauguration. "At least the event will be a good opportunity for Indonesia to show a positive attitude," he said. "To attend the ceremony, many things must be prepared," the minister added.

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