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Indonesia says Tsunami Reconstruction will not Deter Other Priorities

  • Michael Drudge

Indonesia says it needs more debt relief to give it time to rebuild from the devastating tsunami. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda made his appeal during a visit to London.

Mr. Wirayuda said Indonesia has been spending half its national budget on debt repayments, but it needs what he calls "breathing space" now to deal with the tsunami disaster.

The foreign minister said that while Indonesia welcomes the moratorium on debt repayments approved last week by the world's seven biggest industrial powers, it would like more of what he terms "understanding" from its creditors. He did not give details.

Mr. Wirayuda says the recently-elected Indonesian government intends to push a reform agenda against corruption, poverty and joblessness, even as it rebuilds the destruction in Aceh province, where more than 100,000 people died in the catastrophe.

"Yes, we need to focus on rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh but we don't want these governmental programs being negatively affected," he said.

He spoke at a London news conference following talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, British Treasury chief Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

In a separate development, Prime Minister Blair appeared in Parliament to give an update on British relief efforts and casualties in the tsunami-stricken region.

He said British government money for the crisis, either on its way or pledged, amounts to about $375 million. Additionally, he said British public donations are approaching $200 million.

Mr. Blair said there are 51 confirmed British deaths and another 402 Britons are feared dead, with 871 British citizens not accounted for.