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Former President Clinton Visits Indonesia's Tsunami-Ravaged Aceh Province

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Bill Clinton walks with UNICEF representative Lely Djuhari, left, and Acehnese children during his visit to Teurbeh village, Aceh province
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has visited the tsunami-ravaged Indonesian province of Aceh to monitor reconstruction efforts and the distribution of aid.

Mr. Clinton's visit to Aceh is part of a four-day tour of tsunami-hit countries to ensure that aid is being distributed fairly and efficiently.

In his role as U.N. special envoy for tsunami relief, the former president met with Indonesian and U.N. officials Monday to observe the progress of the relief effort.

The U.N. coordinator for Indonesia, Bo Asplund, who accompanied Mr. Clinton in Aceh, says the former president had a number of suggestions for the U.N. and the Indonesian government.

"There were a number of messages from the president - the need for us to work with all stakeholders in reconstruction, including civil society," Mr. Asplund. "The need to use environmentally friendly materials, particularly lumber when it comes to reconstruction so that there's no negative impact on the rainforests of Aceh. And coordination is extremely important so that people work together."

Mr. Clinton's visit to Indonesia comes at a time when frustration with the slow pace of the reconstruction effort is high.

Mr. Asplund says survivors of the December 26 disaster want the distribution of aid to move faster.

"I think where people feel frustrated is that not very much of the large funds pledged for reconstruction have been spent to any extent yet. That is of course a result of the fact the reconstruction agency was created only a month ago," he said.

After his tour, Mr. Clinton stressed the positive developments in Aceh, including the absence of starvation or disease among children.

The former president also recognized government efforts to stop corruption, including appointing international accounting firms to monitor the process.

Mr. Clinton praised the ongoing peace talks between the Indonesian government and Aceh separatist rebels in Finland as well, saying peace was imperative to the reconstruction process.

The December 26 earthquake and tsunami claimed over 230,000 lives in Aceh. Indonesia was the worst hit of the dozen affected Indian Ocean countries.

Mr. Clinton previously visited India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives as part of his current tour.

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