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US Praises 'Excellent Cooperation' Received From Indonesia, Philippines in War on Terror - 2003-03-27

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Daley says the United States is receiving good cooperation from governments in southeast Asia in the war on terrorism.

Mr. Daley says the United States has received excellent cooperation from Indonesia, and the Philippines, in the war on terror.

Recalling the terrorist bombing in Bali last year, Mr. Daley said Indonesian authorities have responded with an intensive investigation.

"We think that the terrorist threat that endangers Indonesia was made graphically clear by the Bali bombing last October," he said. "Indonesia has responded to that by conducting a police investigation that has made remarkable assistance in solving the case and disrupting the Jemaah Islamiah terror network."

Mr. Daley says the United States remains concerned about possible links between Iraq's intelligence service and Islamic radical groups such as Abu Sayaaf in the Philippines.

Describing Philippine President Gloria Arroyo as a vociferous supporter of the war on terror, as well as the war to disarm Iraq, Mr. Daley spoke about these concerns:

"We and the Philippine government are concerned about the growing evidence of links between Philippine and international terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiah, and similarly our two governments are concerned that there could be a link between the Abu Sayyaf group, which is in the southern Philippines, and Iraq," Mr. Daley explained.

Expanding on this, Mr. Daley said there is good reason to believe a member of Abu Sayyaf was in direct contact with an Iraqi intelligence officer at Baghdad's embassy in Manila, who was later expelled.

The State Department official says the U.S.-led war in Iraq appears to have "exacerbated" the view among many Muslims in Southeast Asia that the United States is hostile to Islam. But he adds, most criticism has focused on U.S. policy toward Iraq.

On specific country issues, Mr. Daley says the United States has been disappointed with the lack of concrete progress in annual human rights dialogues with Vietnam. But he adds that Vietnam's society is "less oppressive" than it was 10 or even five years ago.

A Republican congressman and noted critic of Hanoi, Ed Royce, strongly disagreed, and called for expanded resources for the Vietnamese broadcasts of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia.

On Burma, Mr. Daley was blunt, saying efforts to foster peaceful democratic change have come to a halt. He says the military government has not demonstrated a willingness to begin a substantive dialogue with the National League for Democracy (NLD).

On Cambodia, Mr. Daley says U.S. policy focuses on promotion of human rights standards and civil society. But he said provocative rhetoric, ethnic tensions and political violence are "a plague on the body politic of Cambodia and a serious check [impediment] on the process of democratization."