Subject: Indon Hosts Major Arms Expo as Concern Over Military Abuses Persist

Also: Indonesia To Push For Lifting Of US Ban On Weapons Sales

Agence France Presse November 24, 2004

Indonesia Hosts Major Arms Expo as Concern Over Military Abuses Persist

A major defence industry showcase has opened in Indonesia, moving the country closer to the high-tech weapons it wants to fight militants and crush rebels but doing little to ease concerns of those who want it held to account for past military abuses.

The four-day expo comes as Jakarta is struggling to overhaul its military under a US embargo imposed in response to abuses by Indonesia's armed forces in insurgency-hit Papua and Aceh and during East Timor's 1999 independence vote.

Although it has begun to restore military ties, Washington says Jakarta has yet to atone for atrocities, particularly after the release and acquittal of security personnel and officials convicted over the East Timor violence.

Indonesia is keen to open new supply channels for its military as it pursues an offensive against rebels in the western province of Aceh and efforts to combat Islamic militants blamed for a series of bombings.

New Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said earlier this week the exhibition was not directly aimed at replenishing the country's armouries but would help forge contacts for future deals.

During former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's administration, Indonesia had purchased Russian Sukhoi jets and helicopters and Korean submarines.

The expo, to be opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, features fighter jets, boats, vehicles and guns made by 250 leading firms from 28 countries, including leading arms-makers from Germany, Poland, Russia and South Korea.

Alongside prominent names Siemens, Korea Aerospace Industries, Daewoo Precision Industries and Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Indonesia's own defence manufacturers are fielding a formidable array of hardware.

On display is an Indonesian navy boat named after Nasi island, an area that came under attack last year in the offensive against separatists in Aceh, where human rights groups accuse the military of torturing captives and killing civilians.

Activists say the arms expo will do little to remove stains from Jakarta's human rights record and could even help revive military dominance in a country that, until recently, bowed to the demands of its armed forces.

"I am not convinced that the exhibition will help to repair Indonesia's image as a country that has terrible human rights records," said Bonar Tigor Naipospos of the Solidamor human rights advocacy group.

He told AFP the military, which has had its financial wings clipped by recent legislation, would use the exhibition to show the government that its equipment was obsolete and in need of replacement by routes other than the United States.

Despite satisfying the US attorney general that rebels rather than its soldiers were behind a 2003 ambush in Papua which left two American teachers dead -- a version disputed by rights groups -- Indonesia has yet to convince Washington it is fully back on-side.

In October former US ambassador for Indonesia Ralph Boyce said Jakarta had "missed its opportunity" to restore military ties by failing to make its soldiers accountable for the violence in East Timor that left 1,400 people dead.

Of 18 people, mostly military and police officers, sentenced by an Indonesian tribunal investigating the bloodshed, all have had their convictions overturned or been freed on appeal.

Human rights groups say the tribunal was a sham set up to deflect calls for an international inquiry into the carnage during which whole towns were razed to the ground as the country voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia.

In Jakarta's latest snub to international demands, the defence minister on Monday said his country had no intention of bowing to pressure for further trials.

"I have stressed that that is a matter of the internal judicial court of Indonesia and Indonesia will not heed calls that are based on their (United States) own regulations," Sudarsono said.

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Indonesia To Push For Lifting Of US Ban On Weapons Sales

JAKARTA, Nov. 24 (AP)--Indonesia is considering buying up to 12 fighter bombers from Russia, and the nation's defense minister will go to the U.S. next year to push for the lifting of a ban on weapon sales, officials said Wednesday.

The embargo and a resulting lack of spare parts has led to the breakdown of many of Indonesia's American-made weapons. The ban was imposed in 1999 after Indonesian troops and their proxy militias killed nearly 1,500 people in East Timor.

Jakarta has made repeated efforts to have the embargo lifted. It gained the support of the Bush administration, which sees the Indonesian armed forces as a key ally in the fight against terror, but the U.S. Congress has rejected the move.

"I will make a trip to Washington, D.C., in March in an effort to reopen military ties with the United States," Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said on the sidelines of a military hardware expo. "If this is not fruitful, we will consider acquiring military equipment from other countries."

But the director general of strategic defense, Maj. Gen. Sudrajat, said the country was already considering buying up to 12 high-performance fighter bombers from Russia. Last year, it bought four Russian-built Sukhoi SU-27 long-range fighters.

He wouldn't say when Indonesia may buy the new planes or how much the deal would be worth.

Indonesia has sought to forge ties with possible alternative weapons suppliers because of the U.S. embargo.

Officials said the Indo Defense 2004 Expo and Forum, the biggest military expo in Indonesia since the fall of ex-dictator Suharto in 1998, gives the country an opportunity to find suppliers to replace obsolete equipment and bolster its military forces, which are battling separatist rebellions at both ends of the country.

The expo runs until Nov. 27 and features 250 companies from 24 countries hawking fighter jets, tanks, weaponry and ammunition.


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