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Indonesia Concerned About Attacks on Afghanistan - 2001-10-08

The Indonesian government says it is concerned by the U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan, and it has called on the United States to limit its operation. Meanwhile, a mainstream Islamic organization is calling on the government to suspend diplomatic ties with Washington.

Indonesia's foreign minister says he understands that Washington is not targeting Muslim people through its military action in Afghanistan. But Hasan Wirajuda is still calling on Washington to exercise restraint. "The government of Indonesia urges that the operations which have taken place shall be truly limited in terms of force deployment, its targets and duration and therefore, reducing or minimizing casualties of innocent people," said Mr. Wirajuda. The statement marks a shift in tone from remarks made by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. On a visit to Washington last month, Ms. Megawati pledged "solidarity" with President Bush's "war on terror." Senior Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says Indonesia is not backsliding on its commitment to Washington and still intends to cooperate. But he says the government does have other things to worry about.

"Our spirit and our determination in being part of the international community and fighting terrorism must be well synchronized with the domestic realities, taking into account the feelings and aspirations of the Indonesian people," said the security minister.

Sensitivities are high in Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Analysts say President Megawati has to walk a fine line between maintaining both her commitment to Washington and support from local Islamic groups. The influential Indonesian Council of Ulamas, which groups several mainstream Islamic organizations, has called on the government to suspend ties with Washington until all military action in Afghanistan stops.

"We also insist to the government of the Republic of Indonesia to temporarily disband - suspend - the diplomatic relationship with the United States and its allies until they stop war and tyranny toward the Afghan people," said Din Syamsuddin of the Council of Ulamas. Security remains high in Jakarta with the U.S. Embassy urging all Americans to stay home because of fears of violent protests. One small radical group threatened to "lay siege" to the diplomatic mission.

A two-meter high wall of razor wire now runs along the front of the U.S. embassy, and police and water cannon have also been deployed. The Indonesian government says it will not tolerate attacks on U.S. citizens or other foreign nationals. So far, no violent protests have taken place.