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Indonesia, US Begin Security Talks - 2002-04-24

Talks between senior Indonesian and U.S. defense officials started in the Indonesian capital Jakarta Wednesday. U.S. officials say the meeting should not be seen as a move toward resuming military ties between the two nations.

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta says the meeting is simply an opportunity for senior officials to discuss security issues that concern both governments.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Brookes leads the U.S. delegation. Indonesia's team is led by Major General Sudrajat, from the Ministry of Defense.

These are the first such talks between Indonesia and the United States since President Megawati Sukarnoputri traveled to Washington shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

President Megawati received a red-carpet welcome in Washington. Analysts say Washington sees Indonesia as a key ally in its efforts to tackle worldwide terrorism.

U.S. officials insist that this week's meetings have nothing to do with resuming military ties between the two countries. Ties were suspended in 1999, after human rights groups implicated the Indonesian Armed Forces in the destruction of East Timor when the territory voted for independence from Jakarta.

Some Indonesians think otherwise. Senior military officials have reportedly said they hope the talks will be a step toward normalizing military relations with the United States.

Human rights groups continue to push Washington not to resume military links. They say Indonesia should first do more to hold senior military officials accountable for alleged human rights abuses.

The talks Wednesday began as the Indonesian military announced a routine change of some senior commands. The head of the Armed Forces announced new officers to head the navy and air force.