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Indonesian MPs summon FM to explain stand on US attacks

Agence France Presse - October 10, 2001

Jakarta – Indonesia's parliament, taking a harsher line than the government on the US-led attacks in Afghanistan, has summoned Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda to explain the government's stance.

"Our stance is harsher than the government's. We condemn the attacks," deputy leader of the house commission on defence and foreign affairs, Astrid Susanto, told AFP on Wednesday. "We've asked the foreign minister to come to the parliament to explain the government's position."

House speaker Akbar Tanjung criticised the attacks on Monday. On the same day the government issued a six-point statement which neither condemned nor supported the military action but prioritised concern for civilians and called for the attacks to be limited.

On Tuesday Tanjung, who also chairs the former ruling party Golkar, questioned the official line. "If [the attacks] escalate or increase, we hope the government will take a firmer stance," he was quoted as saying by the state Antara news agency.

Susanto said parliament was more critical because it was reflecting the people's feelings. "We're the ones who deal with protesters, not the government. As the people's representatives we must convey their aspirations," she said. "We support the fight against terrorism but we disagree with attacks. We hopte the United Nations Security Council will take a stance and stop this from turning into a world war."

President Megawati Sukarnoputri has made no comment herself since the US-led coalition launched the first strikes on Afghanistan late Sunday. Megawati, leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation, is struggling to keep Muslim groups on side while maintaining stability for desperately needed foreign investment.

Radical groups have demanded she cut ties with the US and its allies while mainstream groups have also criticised her stance. The second largest Muslim organization, the Muhammadiyah, on Tuesday urged the government to take a tougher stance. "The US is fighting terror with more terror," it said in a statement. The Indonesian Council of Ulemas (Muslim scholars) wants Megawati to sever ties with the United States.

Small protests and as-yet-unrealised threats to drive Americans out of Indonesia have reversed the rupiah's gains since Megawati came to power two months ago. So far there have been no reports of foreigners being attacked.

More than 80 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslims, the majority of them moderate. Hardline groups are a vocal minority.