Monday, January 17, 2005

Sounds a little like backtracking to me...

INDONESIA yesterday said foreign troops offering assistance to those hit by the recent deadly tsunamis would not be compelled to leave the country by the March 26 deadline it had earlier imposed. The statement by its Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono appeared aimed at easing concern over the government's plan to impose the deadline, which critics said would hamper relief efforts.
His statement came after a meeting with visiting United States Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who had travelled to Indonesia to see first-hand the devastation wrought by the Dec 26 killer waves. In a sign that relations between the two countries might be warming, Mr Juwono also expressed hope that military ties with the US, severed for years, would be restored.

Clarifying his government's stance on foreign involvement in relief work, Mr Juwono said: 'We would like to emphasise that March 26 is not a deadline for involvement of foreign military personnel in the relief effort. 'It is a benchmark for the Indonesian government to improve and accelerate its relief efforts, so that by March 26, a large part of the burden of the relief efforts will be carried by the Indonesian government and authorities on the ground. Foreign military assistance and operations providing relief and rehabilitation can continue albeit on a 'reduced scale', he said.
Read the whole thing here (ST Jan 17).

The Americans too, are beginning to sound a lot more conciliatory:
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Jan. 13--The American ambassador here said Thursday that the United States was not troubled by the Indonesian government's demands that aid workers in Aceh Province register and that all foreign troops be gone by the end of March, describing the restrictions as "reasonable" and "unremarkable."

"It's their country," Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe said at a news conference at the fortified American Embassy, adding that "they have every right to decide" how long American troops are needed.

He said Indonesia's intention to have foreign troops leave and its own people take over the reconstruction after 90 days "sounds like a perfectly reasonable position to me."

Mr. Pascoe's comments came as administration officials contended that Indonesia was not imposing a strict time limit, but rather giving an estimate of how long foreign soldiers would be needed...
Read the whole thing here (NYT Jan 14)

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