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February 20, 2009

Clinton in Indonesia, promoting ties with Muslim world
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks Thursday with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, repeating the new US administration's intention to build ties with the Islamic world.

"The President welcomes (U.S. President Barack) Obama's effort to start an outreach to the Muslim world," Kyodo news agency quoted presidential spokesman Dino Pati Djalal as telling a press briefing after the talks where Clinton and Yudhoyono discussed bilateral and international issues.

Djalal said Clinton recognized Indonesia's feeling about events in Palestine and both countries "shared the same view" Israel and Palestine should return to negotiating table.

"There is a need to speed up the effort to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian state," Djalal said, while stressing that Indonesia supports the two-state solution of an Israel that "lives side by side" with a Palestinian state. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, has been a staunch supporter of Palestine and does not maintain diplomatic ties with Israel.

When asked what specific role Indonesia could play in bridging the relationship between the Western and Muslim worlds, Djalal said Indonesia is an active player in the Muslim world, holding conferences and interfaith dialogue, including joining a Gaza reconstruction conference to be held in Egypt and holding the World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta, both in March.

Djalal also said Clinton emphasized the United States "needs to listen more" and that was reflected in her 45-minute talk with Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono asked Clinton to convey his invitation to Obama to visit Indonesia where he spent four years of his childhood.

"He will be warmly welcomed here, as you know he was a 'Menteng kid'," Djalal said, referring to an elite residential area in the capital where Obama attended elementary school. Indonesia is expecting to receive Obama before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore in November.

On Wednesday, Clinton, who in Jakarta after a visit to Japan, held talks with her counterpart Hassan Wirajuda, visited the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations and met with noted Indonesia civilian leaders and Muslim intellectuals over dinner.

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