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US Resumes Military Ties with Indonesia

The United States has resumed military ties with Indonesia, formally ending the last of the restrictions imposed after violence in East Timor in 1999, local media reported Wednesday.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack cited the "national security interests" of the Untied States as the reason for waiver, noting that Indonesia played a strategic role in Southeast Asia and was a "voice for moderation in the Islamic world."

Washington planned "to provide assistance for specific military programs and units that will help modernize the Indonesian military," he said.

McCormack said resumption of Foreign Military Financing, suspended with other aid over human rights and other concerns, would help boost anti-terrorism efforts, maritime security and disaster relief.

The Bush administration had taken a number of steps this year to reward Indonesia, for its cooperation in the battle against Islamic extremists, a report in The Washington Post's Wednesday edition said.

The United States resumed military training in February and sales of "non-lethal" equipment in May.

US President George W. Bushissued a statement with his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo BambangYudhoyono in May that "normal military relations would be in the interest of both countries."
The State Department eliminated the remaining restrictions Tuesday, one week after the Congress approved an appropriations bill that gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the authority to waive them.

The Post quoted a Senate staff member as saying that lawmakers had anticipated a six-to-nine month deliberative process, during which the administration would use the possibility of a waiver as leverage to extract concessions from Indonesia.

But the restrictions, which affect foreign military financing and sales of lethal items, were largely symbolic, according to the report.

In Jakarta, the Indonesian president welcomed the US decision to lift the six-year arms embargo.

The move represented "a new chapter" in relations between the two countries, and would enable Indonesia to modernize its aging military inventory, said Yudhoyono.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2005)

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