Subject: Interview: Indonesia's Wiranto Vows to Crush Terrorism
[excerpt: Asked about an indictment brought against him in East Timor last year, Wiranto said he had been investigated and cleared by a separate tribunal in Indonesia of any human rights transgressions. He said he has met East Timor's top leaders as recently as last month to discuss advancing relations.
"I have met them quite often. I have met Mr Xanana a number of times and we share some common ground," he said, referring to East Timor President Xanana Gusmao.]
INTERVIEW-Indonesia's Wiranto vows to crush terrorism
By Tomi Soetjipto and Jerry Norton, Reuters
JAKARTA, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A former top Indonesian general indicted for alleged human rights violations in East Timor said on Wednesday he would improve law and order and crush terrorism if he became president in this year's elections.
In an interview, ex-general Wiranto, the last armed forces chief under former president Suharto, said he would use all his skills as a military leader to tackle Indonesia's endemic corruption and cut terrorism off at its source.
"I will not make any compromise whatsoever with terrorism and will not give any chance for terrorism to live in Indonesia," he said, wearing a coat and tie and still looking as physically fit as in his military days.
"My background as a military leader who is quite an expert in implementing laws would distinguish me," he said in his campaign offices, donated space on the 21st floor of a Jakarta high-rise office building.
Wiranto, 55, is a colourful and suave figure renowned in Indonesia for his karaoke crooning and CDs.
He is credited with trying to hold down violence during riots during Suharto's last days and for expediting Suharto's resignation in May 1998.
But his image was tarnished when, as Indonesia's defence minister and military commander in 1999, more than 1,000 people were killed in the period surrounding a vote for independence in the then Indonesia-controlled East Timor.
Asked about an indictment brought against him in East Timor last year, Wiranto said he had been investigated and cleared by a separate tribunal in Indonesia of any human rights transgressions. He said he has met East Timor's top leaders as recently as last month to discuss advancing relations.
"I have met them quite often. I have met Mr Xanana a number of times and we share some common ground," he said, referring to East Timor President Xanana Gusmao.
"We will build a stronger brotherhood between the two countries because we both have the same interest in security and welfare."
Wiranto has also been blamed by human rights groups for not doing enough to stop sectarian and ethnic clashes after Suharto's fall.
While his past may be a problem with foreign governments, political analysts say many Indonesian voters don't seem to care.
He consistently ranks in the top five in popularity polls and has been garnering more media attention than many other candidates who include President Megawati Sukarnoputri..
The man himself has been focusing full-time on his campaign for the July 5 presidential ballot, saying he has already visited all of the country's 32 provinces, giving speeches and shaking hands.
His key aim is to win the nomination of the Golkar Party, the former political vehicle for Suharto.
His popularity has taken some in Golkar by surprise.
Articulate and telegenic, he was a top contender for Golkar's nomination until its chairman, Akbar Tandjung, won an appeal this month over a graft conviction, clearing the way for the chairman to seek the nomination.
Many say Tandjung's ability as a political insider and organiser may count for more in determining who gets Golkar's nod than Wiranto's possible greater power to win votes in July.
Asked if he might switch to another party to be their nominee, if Golkar rejects him, Wiranto said no other party had approached him.
Megawati seeks re-election and is expected to be one of the two candidates in a September run-off if no one wins a majority in July. Unlike Tandjung, Wiranto ruled out the option of a coalition with her or others where he would be the vice presidential candidate.
"Only a president has the authority to solve the problems," he said.
His message to voters is clear: a harder line on terrorism and corruption problems including harsher sentences.
Megawati was criticised after the September 11, 2001, attack for a lax approach to Islamic militants in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Jakarta stiffened its policies after bombing attacks in Bali in October 2002 that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. But some analysts and foreign officials say Indonesia still needs to be more aggressive in its rhetoric and actions.
Wiranto said he would try to achieve a mix of toughness while still maintaining and building on the country's fledgling democracy.
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