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Homeland Security

SLUG: 2-300551 Indonesia / Australia (L)








INTRO: Australia and Indonesia have pledged to continue cooperating in the fight against terrorism. As Tim Johnston reports from Jakarta, government ministers from both countries also want a regional group to take up the issue of North Korea.

TEXT: Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer commended the Indonesian police for finding those responsible for the bombing in the island of Bali last year. The blast killed nearly 200 people, most of them Australian tourists.

Mr. Downer led a delegation of eight government ministers to meet with Indonesian officials in Jakarta. At the end of a daylong meeting Tuesday, he said the ministers of both countries had reconfirmed their commitment to fighting terrorism.

Mr. Downer said the ministers also discussed the problem of North Korea's nuclear program. He said the ASEAN Regional Forum should help find a way out of the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The forum includes the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the United States, Australia, and both North and South Korea.

The United States says North Korea has a banned nuclear weapons program. In an escalation of tensions over the issue, Pyongyang has recently engaged in a series of provocative acts, including starting idled nuclear facilities and test-firing missiles.

The Australian delegation's visit comes at a delicate time in relations between Jakarta and Canberra. Australia supports the U-S military buildup aimed at pressuring Iraq to comply with United Nations demands that it disarm. The United States threatens to use force if Iraq does not abandon its alleged efforts to develop banned weapons.

Jakarta, however, opposes any military action against Iraq, and says it might provoke a violent wave of anti-Americanism in Indonesia.

The two sides did not discuss the Iraq issue at length Tuesday, but both urged Iraq to disarm.

Despite this and other tensions, there has been great cooperation between the two countries since the October 12th bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. (SIGNED)


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