Thu, 03 Aug 2000

Gus Dur to embark on overseas visit next month

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid will visit the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand early next month, a presidential aide said on Wednesday.

The President's secretary Djoko Moeljono said Wahid will first travel to New York to attend the UN Millennium Summit, which is expected to draw heads of state from around the world to discuss the future of the world body.

Abdurrahman will later travel to Canada and Europe. Djoko did not say which countries in Europe the President will stop or what was the purpose of the trip. He also did not give exact dates for the journey.

Gus Dur, as the President is popularly called, will then fly to Australia for a long-awaited state visit and then onto New Zealand, Djoko said.

Jakarta has had a rocky relationship with both countries since they took leading roles in last year's international military intervention in East Timor.

Abdurrahman, who has visited more than 30 countries since taking office in October last year, has been criticized by legislators for putting global issues ahead of unsolved domestic problems.

The House of Representatives warned Abdurrahman in June to put future overseas trips on hold because he had used up most of his annual travel allowance.

The House Commission I for security and political affairs said the President had used Rp 52.72 billion (US$5.85 million) -- around 98.64 percent -- of his state-allocated travel budget.

In June, Abdurrahman visited Tokyo, New York, Paris, Teheran, Islamabad, Bahrain, Oman and Cairo in a bid to shore-up support for his administration.

Djoko said that Abdurrahman's overseas trips have become so frequent that the government has arranged a new deal with the national airline, Garuda Indonesia, for future travel.

He said the deal would ensure a Garuda jet was available whenever the President wanted to go anywhere. (byg)