Subject: Papua Ambush Threatens US-Indonesia Ties: Minister [2 reports]

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: Indonesia rails at U.S. House move on military aid

Agence France Presse July 21, 2003

US decision over Papua ambush threatens ties with Indonesia: minister

JAKARTA,

A US decision to withhold military assistance to Indonesia over the ambush killing of two Americans in Papua province threatens relations between the countries, Indonesia's top security minister said Monday.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters the US House of Representatives decision came as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents from the United States continued to investigate the case alongside Indonesian authorities.

"The process is continuing for our mutual interest, so one dramatic political step like that certainly will disturb our bilateral relations," he said on Elshinta radio.

Unidentified gunmen last August fired more than 100 rounds at a convoy carrying employees of the US-owned Freeport copper and gold mine near Timika in Indonesia's easternmost province. Two US teachers and an Indonesian colleague died. Twelve others, mostly Americans, were wounded.

Under the House amendment, international military education and training (IMET) funds would be withheld "until the Indonesian government decides to cooperate with US investigators and provide credible and honest answers about the attack," according to Republican Joel Hefley, who sponsored the measure.

FBI agents returned to Indonesia last month to resume their investigation but have since gone back to the United States.

Police in Papua have said that a witness linked Indonesian special forces soldiers to the killings. The military has blamed a group of separatist rebels.

The US administration halted most military contacts with Indonesia over the 1999 bloodshed in East Timor and says they will not be restored until soldiers are held to account for abuses.

The resumption of the IMET programme was proposed last August -- before the Papua killings -- by visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell as a first step towards restoring ties.

Indonesia is seen as an important partner in Washington's war on terror.

A senior US administration official in June said the Papua case is "of the highest priority" to the United States and one which requires credible accountability.

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Indonesia rails at U.S. House move on military aid

JAKARTA, July 21 (Reuters) - Indonesia bristled on Monday at a move by U.S. lawmakers to block military aid over Jakarta's response to the killing of two Americans in Papua province last year, saying the "dramatic political" decision would affect ties.

Chief Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the move indicated there was little faith in a joint FBI-Indonesian investigation into the killing of the two schoolteachers, part of a group ambushed last August near a giant American mine.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives moved to block Jakarta from receiving military training assistance funds, known as IMET, complaining it had conducted a lax investigation into the shooting that also killed an Indonesian.

"A dramatic political step like that certainly will disturb our bilateral ties. Up to now there has not been any explanation from the U.S. government, either directly from Washington or the embassy here in Indonesia," Yudhoyono told reporters.

He did not say how ties could be affected, but Jakarta is an important partner in the U.S. war on terrorism.

According to U.S. Congressional documents, the shooting "appears likely to have been perpetrated at least in part by members of the Indonesian military."

The military, which provides the main security for the copper and gold mine operated by U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc, has blamed Papuan rebels and repeatedly denied any role. No one has been charged.

The United States has warned Jakarta over the ramifications should it fail to cooperate. FBI agents last week took evidence from the killing back to the United States.

Some Papuan human rights groups say military elements could have staged the ambush to discredit the rebels or get higher payment for their security role at Freeport.

The teachers worked at a school serving Freeport expatriates.

The U.S. House vote blocks less than $1 million from the International Military Education and Training program for fiscal 2004. Some $400,000 for IMET has been passed for 2003 but not been disbursed. Analysts said that could now also be held up.


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