Subject: RT: US House panel approves IMET for Indonesian military

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

US House panel approves $16.55 billion foreign aid

By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - A House of Representatives subcommittee passed a foreign aid bill on Thursday that would bar U.S. aid to a yet-to-be created Palestinian state if it is not a democracy and eases restrictions on military training aid to Indonesia.

The House Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee approved a $16.55 billion foreign aid bill for the next fiscal year which starts on Oct. 1. That is $230 million above current spending and slightly above President George W. Bush's request.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the bill in July, but it has not reached a full Senate vote.

In a move that backers said would improve prospects for peace for Israel, the bill calls for restricting aid to a new Palestinian state that the Bush administration envisions as the result of a Mideast peace initiative unless the new government is a democracy.

But Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the subcommittee's top Democrat, said the measure backs Bush's conditions for establishing the state.

"I think it's important that we set these standards. These are cornerstones of our foreign assistance policy," she said.

But critics said the requirement would not improve Israel's security, and puts a new Palestinian state in a special category since many nondemocratic governments get U.S. aid.

Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, top Appropriations Committee Democrat, said a democratically elected government that bows to zealots could pose a more severe threat to Mideast stability than other types of governments.

"I care more about whether they are trying to kill than whether they are a Jeffersonian democracy," Obey said.

"What if they have a competitive election and choose the old leadership, then what?" Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat, said.

The bill also reinstates International Military Education and Training funds for Indonesia's military, which were curtailed in 1999 as Washington sought to distance itself from the military that has been blamed for massacres in East Timor, drug trafficking and other corruption.

Backers of fully reinstating the program to train foreign personnel in military management and combat said it sends a positive signal to the world's largest Muslim nation as the United States is courting allies in the war on terrorism.

But critics said Indonesia's military has not demonstrated reforms needed to get back into the program.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also moved to reinstate the program for Indonesia.

Despite spending increases, several lawmakers said the bill still fell short on money to fight the global AIDS epidemic and for help to rebuild Afghanistan after the U.S. military operation to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda network.

The bill includes $786 million for the global AIDS battle, up $150 million from Bush's request. It also boosts U.S. Agency for International Development funds, mostly for AIDS education and prevention programs.

It has $147 million for Afghanistan, well short of the $255 million Congress approved last year. The White House rejected part of the Afghanistan aid Congress sought last year, and has not yet made a new request for Afghanistan aid for next year.

The subcommittee put off expected disputes over international family planning funds, aid to Colombia to fight drug trafficking and rebel insurgents and several other issues until the bill reaches the full committee or the House floor.

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