Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Megawati says 'no' to war

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur

President Megawati Soekarnoputri made her first address on the Iraq crisis when she spoke before the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit which opened on Monday, but she fell short of detailing initiatives to prevent war.

Representing the world's most populous Muslim country, Megawati simply joined the bandwagon of worldwide opposition to any unilateral action by the United States and that Iraq must comply with United Nations' resolutions.

"Indonesia is firm in its rejection of war as a solution," Megawati told the summit.

She even refrained from mentioning the U.S., referring to it as a "powerful country", which she said had no right to act unilaterally against the other.

As the country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia has been intensively lobbied by Washington and its allies seeking Jakarta's understanding of any possible attack.

Unlike her move to directly urge North Korea to continue dialogue with South Korea and the U.S. to settle the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, Megawati gave no signs of taking a more active role on Iraq by approaching either Baghdad or Washington.

But Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the government had also tried to play a leading role on the Iraq issue, saying that Megawati's special envoy and interfaith group had lobbied many parties on the issue.

"I do not see any differences in our actions regarding the Iraq and Korea issues, as the President's special envoys have gone to many countries to lobby many parties regarding both matters," Marty said.

"We'd rather prove our role by action than by statement."

A group of interfaith leaders are in Europe to convey the Indonesian people's united stance against war.

In her speech, Megawati said the case of Iraq was a reflection of the failure of multilateral systems in facing the intention of strong countries, some saying with oil as its motive, to depose President Saddam Hussein.

She further called on Iraq to comply with the UN resolution to avert war and save the lives of the many Iraqis who would die.

"Therefore as a friend and fellow member of this movement, Indonesia calls on Iraq to abide by its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions," Megawati said.

She also urged Israel to comply with the UN resolution in addressing the Palestinian issue. The Indonesian government also threw its weight behind a proposal to send UN security forces to protect civilians in the state.

"From the prevailing problems of different regions, we can identify a growing trend, where the powerful imposes its will on the weak. This trend would only advance injustices, which in turn leads to other forms of violence, namely terrorism," Megawati said.

A stronger statement on Iraq came from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said the U.S. plan to strike Iraq "is no longer just a war against terrorism" but "is in fact a war to dominate the world."

A draft statement on Iraq to be presented at the end of the summit Tuesday opposes any war without the support of the UN and calls on Baghdad to "actively" comply with UN demands that it disarm.

NAM groups 114 countries, most of them developing nations who depend on foreign aid, including from the U.S.