Subject: AP: Indonesia Wants U.S. To Lift Weapon Sales Ban

Also: Wolfowitz to Discuss Renewal of Indon-US Military Ties

Associated Press

January 14, 2005

Indonesia Wants U.S. To Lift Weapon Sales Ban

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP)--Indonesia wants the United States to lift a long-standing ban on weapon sales to its military, arguing that it could respond more effectively to disasters such as last month's tsunami if its forces were better equipped.

But rights groups and some supporters of the ban in the U.S. Congress say Jakarta is using the disaster to twist the facts and unfairly pressure the United States. They say the 23-year-old ban should remain in force until Indonesia addresses unresolved human rights violations.

The debate forms part of the backdrop of a visit by U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the tsunami disaster zone this weekend. He is scheduled to visit Thailand Saturday before traveling to the badly damaged Indonesian city of Banda Aceh and then to Jakarta for talks Sunday with Indonesia 's defense ministers and other government officials.

Indonesian officials say a lack of spare parts left 17 of its fleet of 24 American-made C-130 cargo planes grounded when the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami hit Sumatra island, preventing it from reaching many remote areas cut off when roads and bridges were destroyed.

Without the U.S. ban, the planes may have been fit to fly, the say.

The U.S. military and other foreign troops have spearheaded efforts to ferry relief supplies to hard hit areas on Sumatra's northwest coast and evacuating survivors.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a visit last week to the disaster zone that the U.S. government would begin allowing spare parts for C-130s into Indonesia .

Indonesian officials are calling on Washington to go further and lift the ban on weapon sales and combat training.

"For us, it's a question of the readiness and capability of the military to respond to any crisis throughout the country," said Dino Djalal, the spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "The embargo one way or another has hampered that ability."

Supporters of the ban say Indonesia is lying about its C-130s parts to curry favor with the United States.

They say Indonesia has been allowed to buy the C-130 spare parts under American law since 2002 and before that bought them on the black market.

"We told the Indonesians we would sell them these parts four years ago, but they chose to buy them elsewhere," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"Yet they have continued to falsely blame our law for denying them this equipment. It is a myth, used to push for a relaxation of our human rights conditions, so they can use these aircraft for combat purposes," Leahy, of Vermont, said.

The United States has pledged US$350 million to help the dozen countries hit by tsunami disaster, which killed more than 157,000 people and left millions homeless.

The ban was first imposed in 1991 when Indonesian troops gunned down unarmed protesters in East Timor, killing more than 250 people. Eight years later, the ban was tightened after Indonesian troops and their proxy militias killed 1,500 East Timorese after the half island territory voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum.

President George W. Bush's administration has campaigned hard for lifting the ban. Wolfowitz - a former ambassador to Jakarta - has argued that normalizing relations is justified by the need to help Indonesia fight Islamic militants who have been blamed for a string of deadly terrorists bombings the past four years.

But Congress has resisted, in part because Indonesia has failed to jail any military leaders allegedly responsible for the 1999 Timor violence.

Jakarta also has been criticized for not cooperating fully in the investigation into the killing of two American teachers in Papua province in 2002 - a shooting the military says was carried out by separatist rebels but that rights group say was the work of the army.

In November, Congress enacted a law allowing weapons sales to the Indonesian navy if the secretary of state approves it. The conditions on the army, however, are much stricter and include accounting the East Timor violence and the Papua murders.

"There is nothing wrong with U.S. soldiers and Indonesian soldiers working side by side to aid the victims of the tsunami," said Leahy, who wrote the law enacting the ban.

"But the Indonesian military remains a corrupt, abusive institution in need of reform," he said. "Our law gives them a choice - show that you want to reform and we will help you. But if you continue to flaunt the rule of law there will be a price."

--

excerpt: Paul D. Wolfowitz, the American deputy secretary of defense, who is a former ambassador to Indonesia, is to visit the area this weekend. He is to go to Jakarta, where he and senior Indonesian officials are to discuss the possible renewal of military relations between the United States and Indonesia.

The New York Times January 13, 2005

RELIEF OPERATION

Indonesia Orders Foreign Troops Providing Aid to Leave by March 26

By JANE PERLEZ

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Jan. 12 - Indonesia announced Wednesday that all foreign troops assisting in the relief operation must leave by late March.

Sensitive to the impression that it was relying too heavily on outside military forces and wanting to assert control over the relief operation, the government set a deadline of March 26 - three months after the tsunami struck - but said it hoped to phase out the foreign troops even earlier.

A number of countries have sent or are sending troops to help. The United States military has taken a major role, flying daily helicopter runs to ferry food to isolated villages devastated by the wave and bringing wounded people to hospitals here in the provincial capital.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and two other Navy vessels have been cruising off the coast here to provide support. American soldiers delivering the aid return to their ships at night.

Some of the large contingents of foreign troops, particularly from neighboring Singapore, have brought heavy equipment - bulldozers and backhoes - to clear smashed buildings and the debris here and in Meulaboh, a city on Sumatra's west coast that was severely damaged.

Australian troops, which were the first to arrive, are to be complemented by a naval ship due on Thursday.

The Indonesian vice president, Jusuf Kalla, announced the deadline to Antara, the state news agency, saying that the foreign troops could stay "no longer than three months" and that Indonesia would be better off if they left sooner.

In Washington, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that the administration was "seeking further clarification" on the timetable from Jakarta, but that the United States was committed to helping rebuild the devastated areas. "This is a long-term effort, and the United States will be there for the long haul," he said, "to help people in the region get the relief they need and to reconstruct their cities and reconstruct their lives."

The timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops was made public a day after the commander of the Indonesian military announced restrictions on the movement of foreign aid workers.

The Indonesian military has fought a civil war against separatist rebels here for 30 years and has kept the province of Aceh virtually sealed to outsiders in that period. The new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is a former general and a strong defender of the military role in the province.

Western military officials said the Indonesian Army, the backbone of the nation's strong sense of sovereignty, has been cooperative but is touchy about the foreign troops working here.

The governments of India and Thailand, nations also hit by the tsunami, said they could cope on their own. But out of a total death toll exceeding 150,000, Indonesia accounts for more than 100,000 and it accepted help from foreign troops when it became clear that its own military could not deal with the devastation.

Still, in the last several days, a groundswell of opinion has emerged in the capital, Jakarta, that the foreign forces threatened Indonesia's sovereignty, a Western diplomat said.

An anonymous text message comparing American intentions in Aceh to its invasion of Iraq was widely circulated on cellphones in the capital this week. It read, "After Iraq, will Indonesia be the next U.S. target?"

To compensate for the departing foreign troops, the military will send three more battalions of soldiers and a battalion of "mobile brigade" police, the Indonesian government said. Those brigades are generally the forces most feared by Aceh's civilians, who regularly describe them as the most brutal of the array of government forces here.

Explaining the decision to limit the stay of foreign troops, a senior government official, State Secretary Sudi Silalahi, said, "It is not proper for us to keep on relying on overseas aid."

He added: "We are going to intensify the use of domestic resources to gradually take over the humanitarian operation. By March 26 we expect to have control of the situation."

But the huge task of clearing debris here in Banda Aceh has barely begun, and it is unclear how much can be done in the coming weeks.

Even as the government announced the deadline, some of the foreign troops that have been pledged to help are still on their way.

The Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, said Wednesday night in Jakarta that a naval vessel was scheduled to leave Spain on Thursday and would not arrive here until next month. The ship will carry a military hospital, heavy machinery and an engineering unit capable of building roads, he said. Two Spanish military transport aircraft are set to land in Aceh on Thursday, he said.

An amphibious Australian Navy ship with 150 military engineers and bulldozers and heavy forklifts is also to arrive in Aceh on Thursday to help restore ruined bridges and roads.

Paul D. Wolfowitz, the American deputy secretary of defense, who is a former ambassador to Indonesia, is to visit the area this weekend. He is to go to Jakarta, where he and senior Indonesian officials are to discuss the possible renewal of military relations between the United States and Indonesia.

The Bush administration has wanted to restore the military relationship, which was cut by President Bill Clinton in the early 1990's on the ground that the Indonesian military had committed human rights abuses, particularly in East Timor.

Congress has blocked efforts to lift a ban on the sale of military equipment. But last week, in a gesture that signaled Washington's desire for better relations with the Indonesian military, the administration lifted a ban on spare parts for Indonesia's military transport planes.

Martial law was in place here through most of the 1990's and was imposed again in 2003. Though it was officially lifted last year, many of the regulations remained in place. The conflict here has meant that a disproportionate number of Indonesian troops were deployed here compared with the rest of the country and resentment of the soldiers is widespread.


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