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ARKIB : 01/11/2004

Indonesia president sees Australia security dialogue

MELBOURNE Oct 31 - Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has said he would welcome a strengthened security dialogue with Australia, but it need not necessarily be underpinned by a treaty.

``Actually we did have in the past a kind of agreement on maintaining security. What we need now is a kind of security dialogue, a forum ... on matters on security,'' he said in an interview for Australia's Sunday television programme.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last week after talks with Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda that the two sides considered it would be constructive in the medium term to develop some form of broad security treaty.

Yudhoyono said he had not received any Australian government proposal on the issue.

``But for me it would be more proper if we just go to strengthen our security dialogue, as also happened within ASEAN context,'' he said.

The former general took office this month as the first directly elected leader of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The Sunday programme, on the Nine Network, said Yudhoyono had indicated in the interview that he could take a more active international role as a moderate Muslim leader.

``I could go to other parts of the world, by for example, playing a more active role in the Middle East, by having greater communications with Islamic countries worldwide,'' he said.

``If everything is going well, then Indonesia can be a good example for the model of Islam that is compatible with democracy.''

Yudhoyono said Australia's role in Iraq, where it supported the US -led invasion, would not harm Indonesia's relationship with its neighbour.

``We do not see that kind of situation will hinder our bilateral relationships and cooperation,'' he said.

Australia and Indonesia signed a deal in 1995 that committed the two countries to ministerial consultations about security, increasing cooperation and consultations in the event of a threat to either country or to regional security.

But the deal collapsed in 1999 after Indonesia objected to Australia leading a UN peacekeeping force into East Timor to quell an outbreak of violence after it voted for independence from Indonesia. - Reuters

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