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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. to Sell Weapons to Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The United States will resume sales of military equipment to Indonesia, ending a 13-year suspension of defense ties between the two nations after the Southeast Asian nation accelerated its war on terrorism.

The United States considers Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, a key ally in the war on global terrorism. Indonesia's secular government has resisted Islamic rule in a country where more than four in five people follow a moderate form of Islam.

"It's in the national security interests of the U.S. to waive" the ban on providing military equipment to Indonesia, Sean McCormack, a spokesman at the U.S. State Department said Tuesday in a statement. "Indonesia is a voice of moderation in the Islamic world. It also plays a key role in guaranteeing security in the strategic sea lanes in Asia."

Indonesian police on Nov. 9 killed Malaysian Azahari Husin, the alleged organizer of the 2002 Bali bombings, and is hunting for his accomplice Noordin Mohammad Top.

Police this month found a video purportedly from Top warning of more attacks. Top and Azahari are also the alleged organizers of the Oct. 1 Bali suicide bombings and other attacks in Indonesia.

The move will "provide further incentives for reform of the Indonesian military, and support U.S. and Indonesian security objectives, including counterterrorism, maritime security and disaster relief," McCormack said.

The resumption of military ties will help the Indonesian army get spare parts for aircraft and other equipment.

"During the arms embargo, the scale of operations was very low," Abdul Azis Manaf, a spokesman for Indonesia's defense ministry, said in an interview. "We will now be able to find the spare parts we need. We have F-16s, F-5s and other types of aircraft. They are suffering from inadequate spare parts." The United States suspended military training in 1992 after Indonesian soldiers shot civilian protesters in Dili, the capital of East Timor, at that time a province of Indonesia, the State Department said in its statement.

The sanctions were extended in 1999 after the Indonesian military and militia started a campaign of violence against East Timorese before and during an independence referendum sponsored by the United Nations. East Timor voted for independence and became a sovereign nation in May 2002.

The U.S. restrictions were again reinforced after two U.S. nationals and an Indonesian were killed when gunmen opened fire on their convoy on a road near the Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold premises in Papua province in August 2002.

The move to resume military ties was criticized by some human rights organizations.

"This is a profoundly disappointing and sad day for human rights protections everywhere, but especially in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the U.S.," John Miller, a spokesman for the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, said in a statement. "U.S. support for an unreformed military, which remains above the law, is not in the interest of the United States or Indonesia."

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general who came to power in October 2004, is pushing for changes within the armed forces in a nation that emerged from military dictatorship in May 1998. Yudhoyono trained in the United States during his military career, before the United States withdrew such assistance.

Indonesia may buy missiles and spare parts for its Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets from India's Hindustan Aeronautics to reduce its dependence on the United States for military equipment, the Jakarta Post reported yesterday.