Subject: AP: Wahid Plans To Visit Australia This Month

Associated Press November 2, 2000

Indonesia's Wahid Plans To Visit Australia This Month

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said Thursday his on-again, off-again visit to Australia would go ahead at the end of November despite criticism by his political opponents.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply last year when Australia led an international peacekeeping force to end bloody militia violence in East Timor after the province voted for independence from Indonesia.

"God willing, I will visit Australia at the end of this month to explain everything about our relationship," he told a group of regional parliamentarians during a meeting at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

Wahid said he would raise several issues affecting bilateral links.

"We have to do something and move to explain what we feel about the relationship, for example, about our position regarding Papua," he said.

Separatists in West Papua, which is also known as Irian Jaya on the western half of New Guinea island, are struggling to break away from Indonesia.

Several groups in Australia, including labor unions, have expressed their support for the independence movement, although the Australian government has repeatedly said it wants Indonesia to remain intact.

Wahid, who came to power in October 1999, has previously criticized Australia's attitude toward his nation.

He has canceled several planned trips this year and once said he would not visit Australia until it changes its "childish" behavior.

Several parliamentarians have demanded Wahid not visit, saying Australian Prime Minister John Howard should travel to Jakarta first.

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