Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday the Bush administration has decided in principle to restore some U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. Congress restricted military ties more than a decade ago because of that country's human rights record.
Ms. Rice says the Bush administration is in the final stages of consultations with congressional leaders on restoring limited military aid to Indonesia, for the first time in 13 years.
The Congress curbed most military-to-military contacts with Indonesia in 1992 because of human rights concerns, and cut them back further five years ago after its army was linked to the killing of hundreds of civilians in East Timor.
But relations have warmed in recent months amid growing anti-terrorism cooperation, the country's first direct presidential elections last September, and Indonesia's welcome to U.S. military forces delivering aid after the earthquake and tsunami disaster late last year.
At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, the secretary of state said the administration is in "the latter stages of consultation" with congressional leaders about resuming training for Indonesian military personnel under the International Military Education and Training Program, IMET.
An earlier effort by the Bush administration to restore the program was dropped in 2002, amid charges that military elements were involved in the killing of two American school teachers in Indonesia's Papua province.
But Ms. Rice told senators that the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, Robert Mueller, has told her Indonesian authorities are cooperating with the FBI on the murder case, and that it is an opportune moment to resume the IMET program.
"I think it is a good time to do that," Ms. Rice said. "They have just had a presidential election, a successful democratic exercise in a huge country with a huge Muslim population. We also do believe they are cooperating. I've talked personally to Bob Mueller about this, the director of the FBI. They are cooperating well enough that we've been able to get an indictment in this case."
U.S. officials had accused the Indonesian army of blocking an FBI investigation for more than a year after the murder of the teachers. An Indonesian with alleged ties to the army was indicted by the United States last year, but remains at large.
Last month, the Bush administration partially lifted an embargo on the supply of U.S. military hardware to Indonesia, allowing the delivery of spare parts for that country's American-made C-130 transport planes, so they could be used to aid tsunami victims.
Secretary Rice told the hearing Indonesia would need to meet additional conditions for the United States to provide it with lethal military hardware, but that she expected to make a formal decision on the resumption of the IMET program "rather soon."
She noted that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, a former general, is himself a graduate of the IMET program, which stresses protection of human rights and military accountability to civilian authority in addition to modern warfare methods.