Under strict security, president visits Indonesia

Bush expected to praise nation's anti-terror efforts

October 22, 2003|By Bob Kemper | Bob Kemper,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SINGAPORE - President Bush arrived today in Bali, Indonesia, the site of a devastating attack one year ago, to reassure leaders of the world's largest Muslim nation that his global war on terrorism is not a war on Islam.

Amid extraordinary security, Bush will spend just 3 1/2 hours in Bali, where a bombing of a nightclub killed 202 people. He is expected to praise Prime Minister Megawati Sukarnoputri's crackdown on terrorists while emphasizing the need for Indonesia to remain on a moderate, democratic path despite internal threats from Islamic militants.

Bush stopped in Singapore yesterday on his way to Indonesia to demonstrate support for another key ally in the region, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Goh earned the administration's gratitude, and a free-trade agreement, by dispatching security personnel to Iraq to help with the U.S.-led reconstruction and arresting operatives of the Al Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Yesterday Bush wrapped up the two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, Thailand, where he spent most of his time lobbying Asian leaders to back the United States on Iraq and North Korea.

The APEC leaders did not issue a written declaration backing the six-nation negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. But Thai Prime Minister and APEC host Thaksin Shinawatra ended the session by calling for a restarting of negotiations aimed at the dismantling of North Korea's program.

A senior administration official played down the significance of not having a formal declaration of support from the Asian leaders, saying, "In many, many ways we have moved beyond statements."

"We have six-party talks under way, and that's where we're focusing our efforts," the official said.

Bush met with Singapore's Goh last night, becoming just the second U.S. president to visit the island city-state. Bush's father, former President George Bush, spent three days here in 1992.

Tensions between the U.S. and Singapore were strained in 1994 when Singapore ignored a plea from then-President Bill Clinton and caned American teen-ager Michael Fay for vandalizing cars with spray paint.

But no tensions were apparent when Bush and Goh appeared before photographers after a private meeting.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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