Posted 6:00pm November 1
by Ilana Weinberg
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
President Bush returned last Friday from his six-nation Asian Pacific tour, highlighted by stops in Bali and Australia, to reinforce gratitude for the international cooperation in the war on terror
Last Wednesday, Bush made a three-hour stop on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia, where the worst terror attack since September 11 occurred just a year ago. Bush paid tribute to the over 200 victims of the night club bombing, while making a broader point about the international war on terror.
“President Bush’s visit allowed him to conduct important face to face contacts with a number of South East Asian leaders which should enhance understanding of U.S. policies, especially regarding the need for international efforts to curb international terrorism,” said retired Ambassador Azmat Hassan, now professor in the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International relations at Seton Hall University.
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri promised to cooperate with the United Sates in its effort to achieve global peace. However, she maintained that many Indonesian citizens, a majority of whom are Muslim, are wary of relations with the United States, largely due to its pro-Israel policy in the Middle East.
“Despite the fact that we do not always share common perspective, we must continue to hold mutual understanding that it is to the interest of the two countries to maintain consultation and cooperation in the pursuit of global peace,” Megawati told Bush.
In his meeting with Megawati, Bush stressed that the war against terror was not a war against Islam.
“Terrorists who claim Islam as their inspiration defile one of the world’s great faiths. Murder has no place in any religious tradition, must find no home in Indonesia,” Bush said to Megawati.
Bush also announced a plan for the administration to provide $157 million over six years to Indonesia to improve general education in religious and secular state schools.
He hoped to lessen the growing mistrust and anti-American sentiment in Indonesia, while gaining support for the battle against the “axis of evil” nations North Korea and Iran.
On Wednesday, he expressed hopes that regional pressure was building on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program, as well as for Iran to stop enriching uranium and allow inspectors unrestricted access to its nuclear facilities.
Aboard Air Force One, Bush told members of the press that his decision to enlist China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea for talks with North Korea created more pressure from Kim Jong Il’s neighbors, hoping this would help restrain the isolated North Korean leader.
Bush made a final stop in Canberra, Australia, where he addressed the Australian Parliament, and met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard to discuss their partnership in the war on terror, and the proposed U.S.-Australia free trade agreement.
After Britain, Australia was the largest source of military personnel for the U.S. led attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. In his speech to Parliament on Thursday morning, Bush addressed a new threat of the possible spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists in hopes of gaining continued support.