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 Barack Obama heads to Indonesia on Asia tour

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PostSubject: Barack Obama heads to Indonesia on Asia tour   Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:40 am

Barack Obama heads to Indonesia on Asia tour
President Barack Obama in Delhi, 8 Nov Democracy, trade and security will dominate Mr Obama's agenda
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* New bid to engage Muslim world
* Obama's strategic shift
* Accent on shared values

US President Barack Obama is due to make the next stop of his 10-day Asian tour with a key visit to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

As on his first stop, India, trade and showing support for democratic progress will be major issues.

But analysts add that this will be Mr Obama's biggest chance to re-engage the Muslim world since a keynote speech in Cairo in June last year.

Mr Obama is also revisiting a nation where he spent four years as a boy.

His schedule includes dinner with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and also a visit to south-east Asia's largest mosque - the Istiqlal.

The US president is expected to praise the economic growth and democratic progress in Indonesia in his meeting with Mr Yudhoyono.

The pair are also likely to sign a "comprehensive partnership" pact they agreed a year ago, taking in issues of trade, security, education, investment and climate change.
Changed mood

Mr Obama's speechwriter and deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said: "We've had this focus on Asia and on emerging powers and on democracies as kind of cornerstones of the kind of strategic orientation of the United States in the 21st Century.

"India fits firmly in that category and so does Indonesia."
A street artist in a Jakarta store displays a picture welcoming Mr Obama A street artist in a Jakarta store displays a picture welcoming Mr Obama

Security will be a key issue, with Mr Obama sure to encourage the Indonesian administration to maintain a strong policy of tackling Islamic militancy.

Indonesia suffered once of the deadliest insurgent attacks, when 202 people were killed by bombs on the resort island of Bali in October 2002.

US officials have played down Mr Obama's speech at the Istiqlal Mosque.

But analysts say this will be the most high-profile address to the Muslim world since the Cairo speech.

Middle East writer Roger Hardy says that that speech had been well received, with its offer of "a new beginning" based on "mutual interest and mutual respect".

But he says that since then, the mood has changed.

Recent polls show that, in key parts of the Muslim world, Mr Obama's credibility has slumped, and this may be a second chance to return to some of the themes he set out in Cairo.
Mount Merapi eruption in Java Indonesia is trying to recover from two natural disasters

Mr Obama has twice postponed this visit because of domestic problems.

He is also visiting at a time when Indonesia is trying to recover from two natural disasters - the eruption of Mt Merapi, which has killed more than 130 people, and the tsunami that struck the Mentawai islands, killing more than 400 people and forcing thousands into emergency shelters.

The trip will provide little time for nostalgia in a country where he spent four years as a boy with his late mother, attending schools in Jakarta between the ages of six and 10.

Mr Obama remains popular in the country but may have to wait until next year's East Asia summit for any Indonesian leisure time.

Mr Obama spent three days on his first stop, India, signing $10bn (6.2bn) in new trade deals and backing India's ambition for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

After Indonesia, Mr Obama will visit South Korea and Japan on his Asian tour.





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