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Protests Continue Outside US, British Embassies in Indonesia - 2001-10-12


It is the fifth straight day of anti-American demonstrations in Indonesia, where hundreds protesters rallied outside both the American and British Embassies. Meanwhile, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri says she remains committed to the U.S.-led war on global terrorism.

Protesters bang on drums at a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. One group of demonstrators carried a banner proclaiming America to be "Satan." Others wore T-shirts bearing photos of suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, or carried Palestinian flags.

Demonstrations have erupted everyday since the beginning of U.S.-led air strikes on suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan on Sunday. The protestors here in Indonesia are angry at what they consider a U.S. attack on an Islamic nation. More than a hundred protesters also gathered outside the British Embassy for the second straight day.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. There have been no direct links between militant Islamic groups in Indonesia and the suspected terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. But the eruption of some anti-American sentiment has put pressure on Indonesia's secular government to proceed with caution.

Despite speculation in the media, Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda has downplayed the idea that Indonesia will allow the U.S. military to operate in its territory in the campaign to wipe out terrorist camps in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Since it's not an issue yet, I don't want to comment on it, he said. But I can say there is no official communication on it yet.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has repeated that her government is committed to cooperating with the international community to, as she put it, "eradicate terrorism." But she has yet to outline specifics.

Ms. Megawati first pledged to support the United States during a high-profile visit to Washington last month. But other top officials later cast doubt on the strength of the government's commitment, when they urged Washington to use restraint in its military operations in Afghanistan.