Subject: Biden Receives Kalla in Washington

The Jakarta Globe Friday, February 6, 2009

Biden Receives Kalla in Washington

Never one to shy away from the international stage, Jusuf Kalla capped off his trip to Washington, DC, on Wednesday by being the first official visitor received by newly inaugurated US Vice President Joe Biden, and took the opportunity to offer his counterpart some advice on peacemaking and to discuss the possibility of new US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visiting Indonesia.

After delivering a speech at a Wednesday morning prayer breakfast, during which he saluted President Barack Obama, who was also in attendance, for taking US relations with Muslim countries in a "new direction," Kalla headed for Biden's new office in the west wing of the White House, where he offered the new vice president some advice on solving the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Biden asked, 'How can I be of help?' " Kalla said, as quoted by state-run Antara news agency.

Kalla said that he turned the question around on his counterpart, responding that Indonesia had nothing to ask of the United States, but was able to offer some suggestions on how to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.

"Actually, Vice President Biden was surprised," Kalla said.

Kalla has sought to build on his reputation as a problem solver, which has grown over the years from his personal involvement in securing peace agreements in Aceh and Central Sulawesi provinces.

Recently, he has met with both Thai government officials and rebel groups regarding the ongoing conflict in Thailand's troubled south, and he has claimed to have been approached by senior Sri Lankan officials about the possibility of a role in mediating the current civil conflict in that country.

Kalla said the meeting was able to take place despite Biden, who after only 16 days in office has yet to assemble his whole staff, not being entirely prepared to receive guests.

"Nevertheless, because I'm vice president of Indonesia, I was received," Kalla said after the meeting. "So I am the first vice president that was accepted by Vice President Biden."

Kalla described the meeting as cordial and relaxed. Scheduled to last 30 minutes, the two deputies spoke for 45 minutes, with much of the discussion centering on the mutual desire to increase cooperation between the two countries.

During the meeting, Biden reportedly remarked that President Obama had proposed that newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton add Indonesia to her itinerary for an upcoming visit to Asia.

"Vice President Biden said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning to visit China, South Korea and Japan, but President Obama ordered her not to forget about visiting Indonesia," Kalla told a group of Indonesians assembled in Washington during a speech on Wednesday night.

Kalla, whose travels will continue to Belgium to receive an award from the government there for promoting the relationship between the two countries, said he had received news in Washington that had made him very happy.

"My grandchild was born and named Azizah Kalila," Kalla said.

The girl is the third child for Kalla's son, Solihin. Earlier, Solihin was accompanying his father, but upon arriving in Tokyo, he received news that his wife was preparing for the birth and he flew back to Indonesia, canceling visits to the United States, Belgium and Holland.

Kalla received congratulations from one of the Indonesians attending the speech on Wednesday night.

"Congratulations on your new grandchild, Mr. Vice President. May she grow into a pious girl."

JG, Antara

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