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Tight security in Indonesia as Bush arrives

By Super
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Bogor (Indonesia), Nov 20: President George W Bush arrived today in Indonesia, an important regional ally in the US-led ''war on terror'', to meet its leader as thousands protested against his West Asia policies.

Bush was greeted by Indonesian officials and the US ambassador at Halim military airport before boarding a helicopter for the brief flight to Bogor, the scenic hill town where he will meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the late afternoon and evening.

In Bogor earlier, around 1,000 anti-US protesters broke through barricades at one point and headed toward Bogor's telecommunications centre and police scrambled to block them.

Bush is scheduled to spend just over six hours in the world's most populous Muslim nation, the last stopover of an Asian tour after flying in from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Bogor lies 50 km south of the capital Jakarta and Bush will meet Yudhoyono in a palace on the grounds of its famed botanic gardens.

In Bogor's locked-down centre, most streets had been cleared, while some were blocked with razor wire and water cannon. Hundreds of police with riot gear stood at the ready, with small groups of armed soldiers.

In the north of the city outside the locked-down zone, protesters carried a 3-metre banner reading: ''Bush must be killed''.

At the palace, security officers stood among herds of deer and statues of nude women, a legacy of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno. Five large white tents were erected to shelter hundreds of journalists and officials.

On the roof a security guard scanned surroundings with binoculars.

Indonesia is an important ally for Washington in Southeast Asia in the fight against violent militants, and it looks to America for trade and investment. But many Bush policies, especially in the West Asia are unpopular in the country of 220 million, 85 per cent of them Muslims. Groups ranging from radical Islamists and traditional shamans to leftist students and political parties have staged rallies across the country to protest against the visit.

PREVIOUS SUICIDE ATTACKS

 About 3,000 people from the Islamic-orientated Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) marched in Bogor wearing bandanas reading ''US terrorist''.

Students from Bogor university shouted, ''Bush dog, Bush dog!''. Muslims consider dogs ''haram'', or forbidden by Islamic law.

Many Indonesians are angry over US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which they consider attacks on Muslim nations.

Despite agreement on other issues, Jakarta has consistently condemned US actions in those countries, as well as Washington's perceived pro-Israel bias. Yudhoyono, under pressure over the cost of security for the visit, is expected to raise the issues with Bush.

Aside from the West Asia the leaders will discuss topics ranging from education and poverty to fighting bird flu and anti-terrorism cooperation.

Security issues have had a high profile ahead of the visit partly because Indonesia has experienced several suicide bomb attacks against Western-linked targets. Washington has praised Jakarta's efforts to crack down on militants.

REUTERS

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