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NEWS UPDATES 22 July 2010

US resumes ties with Indonesian forces

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The United States announced Thursday it was resuming military ties with Indonesian special forces after a 12-year pause, during a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to Jakarta.

"We will begin a gradual, measured process of working with Kopassus," a senior U.s.S defence official said, referring to the elite Indonesian military unit with which Washington suspended ties in 1998.

The decision was made "in light of the progress that Indonesia and its military... has made in terms of reform and professionalisation since the fall of Suharto as well as recent pledges of reform," he said, as reported by AFP.

The United States wants to resume training for the special forces as part of growing counter-insurgency and intelligence cooperation with Jakarta.

But the move is controversial as the Kopassus unit has been implicated in human rights abuses, including in former East Timor (now Timor Leste), and some figures in the US Congress have opposed embracing the force before it has accounted for its past.

The United States broke off ties with the Kopassus under a law banning cooperation with foreign troops implicated in rights abuses.

The Indonesian special forces are accused of committing abuses in former East Timor and Aceh under then leader Suharto in the 1990s.

The administration of President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, sees the country as an increasingly important player in East Asia and key ally in the Muslim world.

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