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Bush Praises Indonesia in Terrorism Fight - 2003-10-22

President Bush has made a brief visit to Bali, praising Indonesia as a partner in the fight against terrorism and assuring Muslim leaders that Islam is not the target of the anti-terrorism war. In his three-and-half hour stay, Mr. Bush also pledged support for Indonesia's fledgling democracy.

Much of Mr. Bush's whirlwind tour of Asia has been about drumming up support for the war on terrorism. In Bali Wednesday, he thanked President Megawati Sukarnoputri for her commitment to combat extremism.

"President Megawati has confronted this evil directly. She was one of the first leaders to stand with me after September the 11," said Mr. Bush. "Under her leadership, Indonesia is hunting and finding dangerous killers. America appreciates Indonesia's strong cooperation in the war on terror."

Mr. Bush's decision to visit the island of Bali was highly symbolic. A year ago - less than eight kilometers from where he stood with President Megawati Wednesday - 202 mostly Western tourists died in Indonesia's worst terrorist attack.

Since the Bali bombing, Indonesia has arrested more than 30 suspected militants of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) - the regional arm of the al-Qaida terrorist network. It has tried and convicted more than a dozen of those responsible for the attack.

Mr. Bush's three-and-a-half hour visit was shrouded in tight security. Despite the Indonesian government's successes against the terrorists, senior officials warn that JI still has the capacity to carry out further attacks.

Standing next to Mrs. Megawati, President Bush also underscored the fight against terrorism is not targeted at Islam. "Americans hold a deep respect for the Islamic faith," he says. "We know that Islam is fully compatible with liberty and tolerance and progress. Terrorists, who claim Islam as their inspiration, defile one of the world's great faiths."

Mr. Bush met with the leaders of Indonesia's two most influential Muslim organizations - representing more than 70 million people - and praised them for their commitment to religious moderation. Mr. Bush also pledged American support for Indonesia's young democracy, which he called vital to peace in Asia.

Washington will give $50 million dollars for training for Indonesia's security forces, and to assist with the funding for next year's first-ever direct presidential elections. The president also says he is asking Congress for $157 million over six years to help Indonesia provide basic education that teaches values and discourages extremism.

Mr. Bush wraps up his Asian tour Thursday in Australia.