Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Megawati heads for U.S. as it prepares for war

JAKARTA (JP): President Megawati Soekarnoputri is scheduled to leave for the United States on Monday as the host country prepares to wage war against those responsible for last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Megawati will be among the first foreign leaders to visit the U.S. since normal life there was abruptly brought to a halt by the attacks.

Megawati will be accompanied by her husband Taufik Kiemas, her children and a number of cabinet members.

The entourage will depart from Halim Perdanakusuma airport at 4 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu at 2 p.m. on Sept. 17 (Sept. 18 in Jakarta).

She will stay in Honolulu for about nine hours before leaving for Washington.

The entourage will stay in the United States until Sep. 25 before leaving for Tokyo where Megawati will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The decision to go ahead with the trip was made after the government received the go-ahead from Washington on Friday.

The terrorist attacks have disrupted the scheduled trips of a number of world leaders, including those attending the UN General Assembly's annual meeting. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung is among those leaders who have canceled their visits.

The United States on Sunday readied its forces to strike back at those behind the horrific assault, while Afghanistan's Taliban leaders called on Muslims to launch a holy war if the U.S. and its allies attacked them, Reuters reported.

CNN reported Megawati's visit by underlining the fact that she was the leader of the world's largest Muslim country and that the visit was taking place as the U.S. prepared to strike at the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which was believed to be harboring Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in the attacks.

Megawati is scheduled to arrive in Washington at 3 p.m. on Sep. 18 local time. She will have talks with President George W. Bush at the White House on Sept. 19.

On Sept. 21, the President will visit the Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation to accept a statue of her father, founding president Sukarno. At 5 p.m. on the same day, she will fly to Houston.

On Sept. 24, Megawati will fly to New York to deliver a speech before the United Nations General Assembly. (02/hbk)