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Indonesia Gives Mixed Signals in War on Terrorism - 2001-10-05

Indonesian officials are giving mixed signals about the nation's support for Washington's so-called "war on terror." Two top security officials now say Indonesia will remain neutral in the conflict, appearing to contradict President Megawati Sukarnoputri's pledge to support U.S. anti-terror efforts.

Indonesian Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil has appealed to Indonesians not to become emotional about anticipated U.S. military action against Afghanistan because, he says, Indonesia has not taken sides with either the United States or Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Djalil was responding to questions about whether Indonesians would be permitted to travel to Afghanistan in order to fight against U.S. forces.

Indonesia's top security minister expressed a slightly different view. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that Indonesia supports the worldwide fight against terrorism, with limits. But Mr. Yudhoyono added, Indonesia does not want to support a war that he says could "threaten world peace."

Those comments seem to contradict assertions made by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, after she met with President Bush in Washington last month.

In a joint statement with President Bush, Ms. Megawati "pledged solidarity" with the United States in its efforts to crack down on global terrorism. She also condemned as "barbaric" the attacks on New York and Washington.

The Indonesian government is now dealing with various reactions to the September 11 attacks, which run the full spectrum of the country's Islamic organizations.

Indonesia's largest Islamic organizations have condemned the attacks but have also called on Washington not to respond through military means. Some more radical groups have called for a "jihad" or holy war against Americans living in Indonesia, should the U.S. strike Afghanistan.