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Indonesian Leader's Cease-Fire Call Follows Pressure From Islamic Parties - 2001-11-01

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has called for a pause in the U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan.

Ms. Megawati warned that continued bombing could lead to the collapse of global support for the war on terrorism, which Indonesia has pledged to back. She says prolonged military action in Afghanistan will prove counter-productive in the effort to stamp out worldwide terrorism. The Indonesian leader says the U.S.-led coalition should implement a "humanitarian pause" in the bombing.

She says Indonesia calls for the military strikes, directed at terrorist suspects in Afghanistan, to halt during Ramadan and over Christmas Day. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan starts in mid-November. Indonesia has the highest population of Muslims in the world. Initially, Ms. Megawati promised to support U.S. efforts to stamp out terrorism. During meetings in Washington in September, she received promises of $650 million in financial assistance pledged by Washington. But facing pressure from conservative Islamic parties, Ms. Megawati has since criticized the U.S.-led air strikes. Ms. Megawati made her comments in a speech to Indonesia's highest legislative body, the People's Consultative Assembly. The Assembly, which has the power to remove a president, has convened just over 100 days since President Megawati came to power. The president also used the speech to warn legislators that Indonesia still faces an economic crisis. Ms. Megawati says the government's ability to meet debt payments is already "reaching a dangerous limit." However, she offered no fresh initiatives to improve the outlook. Shortly before the president spoke, a fistfight broke out among legislators over a procedural issue. It was an unprecedented occurrence in the 700-member Assembly, which until 1998 had served as a rubber-stamp for policies enacted by the authoritarian former President Suharto.