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Tight security in Indonesia for Bush visit

Written by: Staff
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BOGOR, Indonesia, Nov 20 (Reuters) Indonesia set in play a huge security operation ahead of the arrival later today of US President George W Bush, ringing this scenic hill town with check points as thousands of anti-US protesters gathered.

Around 1,000 protesters broke through barricades at one point and headed toward Bogor's telecommunications centre as police prepared to block them.

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

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

In the centre, most streets had been cleared and hundreds of police with riot gear stood at the ready, along with small groups of armed soldiers.

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

At the palace, security officers stood among herds of deer. 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 a key regional ally in the US-led ''war on terror'' and 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.

Police and troops kept an eye on scattered protests around Bogor, a popular hill station known for its cooler temperatures.

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

Some 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, the Indonesian government has consistently condemned US actions in those countries, as well as Washington's perceived pro-Israel bias. Yudhoyono, under pressure over the cost of the visit, is expected to raise the issues with Mr 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 AKJ SSC1420

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