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US Trade Official Conveys Support to Indonesian Leader - 2001-08-11

The U.S. trade representative is in Indonesia for meetings with top officials, including President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The visit by Robert Zoellick comes as the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to American citizens, in the wake of information that extremists may be planning attacks against U.S. interests in Indonesia.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says the purpose of his visit to Indonesia is to convey a message of support to new President Megawati Sukarnoputri from President Bush. He explains President Bush wants to support Indonesia's efforts to become united, democratic and economically successful. "And he also asked me to relay his support for [the Indonesian] president personally, because we believe she is taking on important challenges, and her early steps have demonstrated her skill and ability to deal with Indonesia's economic and security issues at a very important moment in Indonesia's history," adds Mr. Zoellick.

President Megawati was elected by Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly almost three weeks ago, when it voted to remove her predecessor, Abdurrahman Wahid, from power. She inherits a country plagued by problems, including an economy that has not yet recovered from the 1997 Southeast Asian economic crisis. Separatist and religious fighting also wracks a handful of outlying provinces, while a series of recent bombings in the capital Jakarta has gone unexplained. Mr. Zoellick announced that President Bush has invited Ms. Megawati to Washington next month for a working visit. "She has graciously accepted to come to Washington on September 19 for an official working visit," he said. "To give you a sense of context for this visit, the [Indonesian] president is the only president that President Bush has invited to come to Washington at the time of the U-N General Assembly meeting."

Mr. Zoellick's visit comes as the U.S. State Department issued a statement urging American citizens to avoid any unnecessary travel to Indonesia. The State Department says it has receive information indicating that what it called "extremist elements" may be planning to target U.S. interests. Americans already in Indonesia have been asked to maintain a "high level of vigilance." The statement gave no additional information about the nature or seriousness of the threat. Security was increased slightly outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, with armed Indonesian police assisting regular guards on duty.