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Wolfowitz: U.S. Forces Welcome in Indonesia

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2005; Page A16

BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan. 15 -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz emphasized U.S. military cooperation as he began a tour of South Asian countries ravaged by the tsunami and played down Indonesian concerns about the presence of foreign forces.

"The Indonesians have welcomed us with open arms," Wolfowitz told reporters traveling with him Thursday night. He said that "all of the kinds of concerns about sovereignty and mistrust . . . have been put aside in the wake of this disaster."

Paul D. Wolfowitz played down Indonesian nationalist concerns.

Wolfowitz, who arrived in Thailand early Saturday, also plans to visit Indonesia and Sri Lanka during a weekend trip aimed at assessing the U.S. military's role in responding to the disaster. He was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia during the Reagan administration from 1986 to 1989.

Indonesian officials are sensitive about foreign involvement in the humanitarian effort, especially the presence of troops. The government reiterated Friday that it wanted foreign troops out of the country by late March. However, the United States, which has thousands of forces in the Indian Ocean region, said it had not been given any such deadline.

In Indonesia's tsunami-battered Aceh province, health workers with fumigation equipment began moving through refugee camps Friday, trying to kill mosquitoes and prevent an outbreak of malaria. Officials said that fears of cholera and dysentery had decreased because clean water was reaching tsunami survivors but that the danger of malaria and dengue fever had increased.

"Short-term, we're trying to prevent an epidemic," Richard Allan, director of the Mentor Initiative, a public health group that fights malaria epidemics, told the Associated Press. "And it may already be too late."

The death toll from the Dec. 26 earthquake-triggered tsunami in 11 countries is more than 157,000. More than 110,000 died in Aceh.

Allan said that 100,000 Aceh residents could die of malaria but that spraying should decrease the risk.

Pools of brackish water in areas devastated by the tsunami have created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, officials said.

In another development, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who was visiting Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh, said his government was working on a truce with rebels who have been fighting off and on for an independent homeland in northern Sumatra for nearly 30 years.

Exiled rebel leaders in Sweden called a unilateral cease-fire the day of the tsunami and have recently called for peace talks.

"We are not going for a cease-fire. We are making it permanently and we are working for that," said Kalla, who did not say whether negotiations were underway.

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