Subject: The Australian: Washington Refuses Kopassus

The Australian August 13, 2003

Washington refuses Kopassus

By John Kerin and Sian Powell

THE US would not renew its ties with Indonesian special forces arm Kopassus until it resolved alleged military involvement in the unsolved murder of two US citizens in 2001, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said yesterday.

Asked to comment on controversial moves by the Howard Government to renew ties between Australian and Indonesian special forces to combat terrorism, Mr Armitage said the US was not willing to work with Kopassus, although he supported Australia's decision to do so. "It's obviously a very dangerous neighborhood ­ Kopassus has certain anti-terror units that are highly trained . .. . I think it's in Australia's interests to develop operations . . . not mindlessly without thinking of the past but focusing on the future," he said.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer came under fire yesterday over Kopassus's poor human rights record, and said Australian troops would deal only with members who had not been involved in human rights abuses or terrorism.

The Opposition and the Greens have accused the Government of ignoring atrocities committed by Kopassus-backed militia in the lead-up to East Timor's independence, and in Jakarta's brutal suppression of Acehnese separatists.

Several Kopassus troops also were found to have murdered Papua independence activist Theys Eluay in 2001. Mr Downer told parliament that Australia's special forces would work only with Kopassus's Unit 81, which specialises in counter-terrorism. "We will limit our co-operation to exclude those people we know to have links to Laskar Jihad and other violent groups or who have been involved in serious human rights abuses," he said.

Australian ambassador to Indonesia David Ritchie said yesterday Kopassus had special strengths, and that Unit 81 was "your primary response unit in a hostage situation".

But a leading defence analyst warned last night that a "pick-and-choose" policy could offend the Indonesian Government and be "extremely difficult" to put into practice.

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