Hamzah demands U.S. stop attack on Afghans
---------------------- Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Tiarma Siboro The Jakarta Post Jakarta ----------------------
Hamzah Haz, in his capacity as chairman of the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), urged the U.S. on Saturday to stop its military campaign in Afghanistan.
"If the military strikes are not stopped, how many more Afghan civilians will fall victim?" he said, when opening a PPP national conference at Millennium Hotel in Central Jakarta.
"As part of the nation, we in PPP must support the campaign against terrorism, but we are opposed to attacks on Afghanistan," he added.
Hamzah, who is also Vice President, appeared to be at odds with the government over the U.S.-Afghanistan affair. The Megawati Soekarnoputri administration's official stand is to be "concerned about the military action", but is keeping it under review in case developments compel the government to alter its stance.
Hamzah insisted that Indonesia's stance on the affair should be firmer than that of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which stopped short of condemning the U.S. military action.
PPP, the third largest party, has been among Muslim groups that wish to see Megawati's administration take a stronger stand on the issue.
Hamzah demanded that the U.S. produce convincing evidence that the dissident Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"It's a big question that remains unanswered," Hamzah said.
Radical Muslim groups, which see the attack on Afghanistan as an assault on Islam, have demanded that the government freeze or even sever diplomatic ties with the U.S.
Their almost daily street protests, sometimes turning rowdy, have caused concern about the worsening political and economic crisis.
Hamzah said the U.S. had not honored its promise of measured and limited attacks on Afghanistan, as seen in the great number of civilians reportedly killed.
Hamzah said he would not forbid anyone from staging an anti- U.S. protest. He saw no reason to stop a planned massive demonstration, reportedly to involve a million Muslims, to pressure America to stop the attacks.
"Please go ahead and voice your aspirations," he said.
But he advised that the demonstration should be peaceful and not damage the public interest.
"I wouldn't prohibit demonstrations as long as the law is not breached," he said.
Hamzah considered that the U.S.-Afghan conflict should be resolved through the UN.
The chairman of the Jakarta branch of the PPP, Djafar Badjeber, said on Friday that he would organize a massive anti- U.S. rally involving "millions" of PPP supporters in the capital unless the U.S. stopped its military strikes.
The planned rally would involve activists of other Muslim- based parties such as the Justice Party, the Crescent Star Party and the National Mandate Party.
However, PPP promised that it would not "sweep" (search for and attempt to expel) foreigners.