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Indonesian President Pledges to Strengthen Democratic Institutions


Indonesia's new president has moved to reassure U.S. businesses that he will build a safe and democratic climate conducive to investment.

Speaking by television link from Jakarta Friday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the U.S.-Indonesian relationship has what he termed "great growth potential."

In his speech, addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Mr. Yudhoyono said he will bolster efforts to fight terrorism and to build democratic institutions. But Mr. Yudhoyono warned that the United States should not be complacent in its relationship with Indonesia.

"I think that the best way for either party to enter this relationship is to never take it for granted, and to always try to earn each other's trust, respect and confidence," he said.

The United States is Indonesia's second-largest trading partner, surpassed only by Japan. Many goods, like shoes and textiles, are manufactured in Indonesia for export by U.S. firms. But political uncertainty, coupled with terrorist attacks, had made some foreign investors nervous.

Mr. Yudhoyono, a former general who last month became Indonesia's first-ever directly elected president, moved to soothe those fears Friday. As he had during the campaign, Mr. Yudhoyono said he would move to reduce unemployment and poverty, and stamp out corruption. He said he has picked a results-oriented team to get things done.

"I have told my ministers in the first cabinet meeting that this will be a performance-driven team, no matter if one is a professional or a party appointee, one will ultimately be judged by the strength of his or her performance to deliver," he added.

But the Indonesian leader warned not to expect immediate results. Change, he said, will take time in Indonesian society.

"I know the list of to-dos will get longer and longer," he explained. "But it is worth remembering that this is not a sprint. It is a marathon. It is a test of stamina, a test of endurance, a test of political will."

Mr. Yudhoyono won election largely on public dissatisfaction with his predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who enjoyed great personal popularity but whose political performance disappointed a majority of Indonesian voters.