|Subject: US Says Embargo Not Responsible
For Indonesian Deaths
Associated Press March 27, 2001
US Says Embargo Not Responsible For Indonesian Deaths
JAKARTA (AP)--The United States Tuesday dismissed as untrue a claim by Indonesia's defense minister that its embargo on sales of military equipment was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people in ethnic violence on Borneo island.
Indonesia's security forces have been sharply criticized for doing little to prevent clashes last month between indigenous Dayaks and settlers from Madura island. Nearly 500 people died, mainly in the town of Sampit.
Defense Minister Mohammad Mahfud said on Sunday that only two of the Indonesian air force's 26 C-130 Hercules transports were airworthy at the time because of a shortage of spare parts that he blamed on a U.S. embargo imposed in 1999. This prevented the air force from flying in reinforcements, he said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. embassy in Jakarta dismissed the charge: "Defense Minister Mahfud's statement that the U.S. continues to ban the supply of spare parts for the Indonesian Air Force's Hercules aircraft is not true," an embassy statement said.
The Clinton administration froze military ties with Indonesia in the aftermath of a rampage by the army in East Timor in 1999, when hundreds of people were killed and much of the territory devastated.
But the ban on spare parts sales was quietly relaxed last year to allow the air force and navy - which were not blamed for human rights abuses in Timor - to purchase non-lethal equipment.
The embassy statement said that the Indonesian air force had been notified on Sept. 22 that commercial sales of spare parts for the C-130s were no longer subject to the ban.
Since then, four U.S. companies had been authorized to handle the sales, it said.
The outspoken Mahfud has frequently criticized the U.S. policy for hampering the effectiveness of the Indonesian armed forces.
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