Sat, 25 Jan 2003

RI leaders warn U.S. not to attack Iraq


'U.S. must not fight Iraq as it will cause chaos in RI'

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Noted Muslim leaders, scholars and activists warned the United States on Saturday against attacking Iraq, saying that a war against Baghdad would only encourage radicalism and undermine efforts to promote democracy, particularly in Indonesia.

In a meeting with U.S. under Secretary of State James A. Kelly here on Saturday, Muslim leaders and scholars emphasized that any attack against Iraq would invite chaos from the country's Muslim masses.

"We asked him (Kelly) if the U.S. was a true friend of Indonesia because if they say they are, then America should support democratization here," activist Chusnul Mariyah said after the meeting.

Aside from Chusnul, Muslim leaders and scholars Hasyim Musadi, Nurcholish Madjid, Komaruddin Hidayat, Toety Alawiyah, Ulil Abshar Abdalla and Ismail Suny were also attending the meeting at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph L. Boyce in Jakarta.

The United States and its allies are sending troops to Middle Eastern countries to be ready if a war with Iraq comes about, as it may if Iraq fails to pass UN inspections for weapons of mass destruction.

Some have speculated that the U.S. could attack Iraq on Jan. 27 when the United Nations inspection team is due to report to the world body on whether or not Iraq has nuclear or chemical weapons.

According to Chusnul, the Muslim leaders and scholars told Kelly that a war against Iraq would provoke violations of civil rights especially against women and children.

"That will be no help at all to the democratization here," Chusnul claimed.

Analysts had earlier warned that with the current shaky political condition after the terrorist attacks in Bali, would further exacerbate anti-western sentiment and would greatly undermine the country's stability.

Muslim scholar Komaruddin Hidayat also told Kelly that attacking Iraq would encourage radicalism to grow in Indonesia and jeopardize political conditions in the country.

"The attack will cause instability in Indonesia, and in the region, and it will be scary for all of us," Komaruddin said after the meeting.

"Moderate Muslims here will lose their legitimacy should the United States fail to prove that they are being fair in their policy against Muslim countries," he stressed.

Kelly arrived here on Friday for a two-day visit as part of his Asia tour that took him to China, South Korea and Singapore, Indonesia and Japan to discuss the current situation in North Korea and Iraq.

He met President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister for Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda on Friday.