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Thousands Stage Anti-American Rally in Indonesia - 2001-10-19


At least 7,000 protesters have taken to the streets of the Indonesian capital Jakarta. The rally is the largest anti-American demonstration since U.S. led military action in Afghanistan began nearly two weeks ago.

Chanting that America is a "Zionist and terrorist nation," thousands of protesters gathered outside the British embassy in Jakarta. Earlier, they marched to the U.S. embassy, after midday prayers on Friday, the Islamic holy day.

The demonstration, organized by an Islamic political party, has been peaceful. That stands in contrast to last week's protests led by radical groups, which saw clashes with security forces.

This is the largest anti-American protest in Indonesia since U.S. led air strikes in Afghanistan began nearly two weeks ago.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, but its government is secular.

Radical Islamic groups want President Megawati Sukarnoputri to suspend diplomatic ties with Washington to protest the military action. They say she is a "puppet" of President Bush. The protesters Friday, however, say they want the government simply to condemn Washington for the use of force in Afghanistan.

Ms. Megawati has sent mixed signals about her stand. After winning promises of more than $600 million of aid from the U.S. last month, Ms. Megawati promised to back Washington's effort to stamp out worldwide terrorism. But under pressure from some Islamic groups at home, she has criticized the use of military force to combat terrorism, without mentioning directly the United States or Afghanistan.

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