Subject: AP: Indonesia's historic botanical gardens dug up to make helipad for Bush

International Herald Tribune

November 8, 2006

Indonesia's historic botanical gardens dug up to make helipad for US president

The Associated Press

Workers are digging up a patch of historic botanical gardens near Indonesia's capital to make a helipad for U.S. President George W. Bush's arrival later this month, adding to anger at his planned trip.

The chief of the vast garden, built in 1817, said he had initially rejected the plan to allow Bush to land there amid fears that wind generated by his chopper would damage the park's trees, plants and orchids.

"At the very least, the branches and twigs will break," Sujati Budi Suseteyo told the Media Indonesia daily.

Bush is tentatively scheduled to visit Indonesia — the world's most populous Muslim nation and a close ally in Washington's war on terror — on Nov. 20, upon his return from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam.

He will fly to the gardens in Bogor, a hilltop city on the southern outskirts of the capital Jakarta, via helicopter from the country's main international airport. He will then hold talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in an adjoining palace.

The country's largest opposition party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said in a statement allowing Bush to land in the park was "neglecting the country's environmental heritage at the expense of political considerations."

Media reports say much of Bogor will be declared off-limits to residents during the meeting.

"Why must Bush be treated like some sort of god?" said Amien Rais, the head of an Islamic-leaning political party, state news Antara reported. "Just meet him at the airport, serve him up some tasty fried rice, a cup of hot coffee, speak with him as needed and then invite him to return home."

Several Muslim groups are vowing to protest the trip by Bush, who is unpopular among many people because of the U.S.-led wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and a perception his proclaimed war on terror unfairly targets Muslims.

Indonesia has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks targeting Western interests since 2002, with suicide bombings on the resort island of Bali and in Jakarta together killing more than 240 people.

The government has arrested hundreds of Islamic militants, winning praise from Washington, which last year rewarded it by lifting a six-year arms embargo imposed after Indonesian troops went on a deadly rampage in East Timor. A spokesman for Yudhoyono said Tuesday that the two leaders would discuss U.S. investment in Indonesia, and would boost cooperation in health care and education. Terrorism may also be brought up on the sidelines of the talks, officials have said.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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