Thu, Jun 08, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Indonesia says US seen as highhanded in war on terrorism


The US needs to let other countries decide for themselves how to fight terrorism in order to counter perceptions that Washington is overbearing, Indonesia's defense minister told visiting US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

In turn, Rumsfeld talked to Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono and Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday about a need for their nation to continue efforts to ensure that human rights abuses are no longer a problem with its military.

After more than seven years of estrangement, the US is working to improve its military relationship with Indonesia in the face of growing disenchantment over the Iraq war among the people in this Muslim nation.

"As the largest Muslim country, we are very aware of the perception ... that the United States is overbearing, over-present and overwhelming in every sector of life in many nations and cultures," said Sudarsono, seen as a close US ally in the war on terror.

He said the US risks angering groups across the world who feel threatened by the US' military and economic might.

There is a feeling, he said, that "the sun never sets on the back of an American GI."

Rumsfeld defended US policy, saying: "I never have indicated to any country that they should do something they were uncomfortable doing."

In a commentary in Tuesday's edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal, Rumsfeld said that Washington and its allies in the region needed to decide "whether to openly combat the messages of hate, intolerance and incitement -- that can, in some cases, gain traction -- or to try to placate and accommodate those whose vision of the future deems that it is acceptable, even desirable, to kill innocent men, women and children to promote their goals."

Indonesia has arrested at least 200 suspected Islamic radicals in the past few years, and suffered a string of bomb attacks blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, including the bombings in Bali in 2002 and last year that together killed 222 people.

Washington cut all military ties with Indonesia in 1999 after its army and militia proxies devastated East Timor during its break from Jakarta.

Over the years the US restored partial relations, and it lifted a military embargo in November, citing Indonesia's cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Rumsfeld -- who wrapped up a five-day, three-nation tour in Southeast Asia -- also discussed maritime security in the strategically important Strait of Malacca and broader programs to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The US defense secretary now goes to Brussels, Belgium, for a NATO meeting of defense ministers where one of the key topics is likely to be the transfer of authority for portions of Afghanistan from US troops to NATO forces.

Portions of Afghanistan have seen new surges of violence that military officials are struggling to control.

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