Indonesia says U.S. alienating Asia Muslims

June 07, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia's defense minister warned Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday that Asia's Muslims increasingly believe that the United States is trying to use its economic and military power to dictate terms for carrying out the war on terrorism, a perception that risks alienating the very countries that the Bush administration needs as allies.

In unusually blunt language after an hourlong meeting here with Rumsfeld, Juwono Sudarsono said that some Muslim nations see the United States as a threat to global stability and suggested that the Bush administration should allow national governments to come up with their own strategies to deal with Islamic extremism.

"The sun never sets on the back of an American GI," Sudarsono said, noting that the $12 trillion U.S. economy allows it to be ubiquitous around the globe. "It's best that you leave the main responsibility of anti-terrorist measures to the local government in question and not be overly insistent about immediate results arising from your perception about terrorists."

The admonishment comes amid a delicate and occasionally halting attempt by the Bush administration to draw closer to Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim nation. The United States, and particularly the Pentagon, have been courting Indonesia and its democratic government in the hope that this secular country could serve as a bulwark against radical Islam in the region.

Rumsfeld continued to press that effort yesterday during a short visit to the archipelago's capital, vowing to resume delivery of spare military parts and boost training of the country's armed forces, programs that were barred until last year after the Indonesian military's harsh treatment of civilians in East Timor a decade ago.

But continued popular unease about the U.S.-led war in Iraq has made it difficult for the government of Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono to fully embrace American overtures.

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