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Indonesian Security Forces to Receive $50 Million in US Aid

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington will provide $50 million in assistance to Indonesian security forces. Mr. Powell also says the United States and Indonesia are on their way toward restoring full military ties.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he has full confidence in the abilities of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to deal with any threats to her nation. Mr. Powell announced that the United States expects to provide $50 million over the next few years to help Indonesia improve its security forces, including its military, called the TNI.

"What we are trying to do is help President Megawati and her leaders and the TNI enhance their capability to be better able to deal with the threats that President Megawati and the leaders of Indonesia have determined exist within the country," Mr. Powell explained.

The decision may generate some controversy. The U.S. Congress suspended ties with the Indonesian military after it was implicated in the violence that wracked East Timor following its independence vote in 1999. Most of the aid will go to the Indonesian police, who are not included in the suspension. But about $4 million will go to the military, because it is part of a defense bill not covered by the ban. An additional $400,000 in assistance for education for the Indonesian military is expected to be disbursed in 2003, pending approval by Congress. Mr. Powell said, however, that restoring full military ties remains a long way off.

Indonesia was one of 10 nations to sign an anti-terror pact with the United States at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei earlier this week. But some ASEAN leaders say Indonesia is the "weak link" in regional efforts to combat terror, in part because it is home to some small groups of hardline Islamists.

Indonesia is the seventh country Mr. Powell has visited on his eight-nation tour of Asia. He arrives in the Philippines late Friday. The trip is intended to boost support for the war on terror.