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NEWS UPDATES 18 September 2010

US-Indonesia alliance rolls out

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The United States and Indonesia pledged Friday to expand cooperation to a global scale, saying they can play supporting roles on hot-button issues from the role of Islam to the Middle East conflict.. Holding an inaugural "Joint Commission" on ties, Washington and the world's largest Muslim-majority nation promised to keep a "scorecard" on recent agreements such as boosting student exchanges to fighting climate change.

"Indonesia is not only a great bilateral partner, it is a leader on behalf of so many of the important issues that we both are addressing," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, speaking earlier at a think tank, said the world's third and fourth most populous nations should complement each other on the international stage. "We are ready to work with the United States in fostering mutual understanding wherever there is a conflict or tension," Natalegawa said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Whether the problem is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, we will always strive to be part of the solution," he said.

Indonesia does not recognize Israel, but the archipelago is religiously diverse with most Muslims moderate in their beliefs. Jakarta has longstanding ties with North Korea, sometimes serving as an intermediary with the reclusive state.

President Barack Obama's administration has put a new emphasis on Southeast Asia, which it feels the previous George W. Bush team neglected due to its preoccupation with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indonesia is at the heart of the strategy. But Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, has twice put off visits to the country due to domestic issues.

Likewise, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is not expected to attend next week's summit between Obama and Southeast Asian leaders in New York.

Last week, Indonesia reacted strongly to threats by a small Christian congregation in Florida to burn the Koran. Yudhoyono said such a desecration threatened world peace and protesters rallied outside the US embassy.

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