Mon, 17 Jan 2000

President Abdurrahman to go abroad again

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesians will again be without their elected President for much of February and March, as he plans to make two separate foreign tours, encompassing 16 countries.

President Abdurrahman Wahid confirmed that he will be leaving for Saudi Arabia on Jan. 28, where he will make a two-day official visit and go on an umrah (minor pilgrimage).

He will then fly to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum.

"I, along with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, will represent the Islamic voice," Abdurrahman said, adding that it was also a good chance to try and attract investors.

From there he will tour several European countries, namely France, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.

On his way back, the President will stop over in India, South Korea and Thailand.

"This is a long trip," the President conceded. "About half a month for 12 countries."

Abdurrahman will then return and stay in Indonesia for about two weeks before again engaging in a tour of the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Libya and Palestine.

"This is all to promote investment in Indonesia, and second, to convince the governments of these countries that they should support the Indonesian government when it comes to resolving problems in Aceh, Maluku and Papua," he contended.

Anticipating the possible public ire of yet another foreign junket, Abdurrahman said he had a Vice President and Cabinet ministers who should be able to handle state affairs.

"Besides, from the plane I can always call Jakarta," he said.

Politicians have rebuked the President for taking too many foreign excursions while the country is facing a multitude of domestic crises. During his first 40 days in office, Abdurrahman spent about half his time overseas. (prb/mds)