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US House Suspends Funds for Training Indonesian Army - 2003-07-22

Tempers are rising in Indonesia after the U.S. House of Representatives moved to suspend funds for training the Indonesian Army, until there is a full investigation of last year's murders of two Americans in Indonesia's restive province of Papua.

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, lashed out at U.S. lawmakers, saying the move is premature. He said congressmen should have waited until the investigation is complete.

The U.S. House of Representatives has amended a bill to block some $400,000 in training funds for the Indonesian Army in 2004. The Senate would have to pass similar legislation before it could be signed into law by President Bush.

Under the amendment, the money could only be handed over after Congress has been satisfied that Indonesia is fully investigating the murder last August of two American teachers.

Nevertheless, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman, Marty Natalegawa, said the House's move could set back bilateral relations, which have improved recently with cooperation in the war against terrorism.

"For the Congress, at this stage, to politicize this process is something we find rather disturbing and that is why we said it was certainly not helpful," Mr. Natalegawa said.

The teachers worked in the international school attached to a huge American-owned gold and copper mine in Indonesia's independence-seeking eastern province of Papua.

They were returning to the mine compound from a picnic when they were ambushed and killed along with an Indonesian colleague. A dozen others were wounded, among them a six-year-old American girl.

A preliminary police report seemed to implicate members of the military in the killings. But the Army then took over the investigation and exonerated itself, instead blaming Papuan separatists.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has made a number of visits to Indonesia to investigate the killings, but have yet to release any findings.