A top U.S. defense official says the United States and Indonesia should begin rebuilding severed military ties in the wake of last month's tsunami disaster.
After meeting Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono today (Sunday), U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a news conference that Washington and Jakarta should focus on "newer" defense relations.
Mr. Sudarsono said Indonesia is working hard to reform its military despite a limited budget, and appealed Washington's help to provide technical training for officers
Washington imposed a military embargo on Indonesia following alleged human rights violations by its troops in 1999 during a referendum in which East Timor gained independence from Jakarta.
The embargo has been partially lifted to help with tsunami relief operations, but U.S. Congress opposes the full restoration of military relations.
Indonesia's defense minister says there is no hard deadline for foreign troops to leave the country where they are helping tsunami victims.
After meeting in Jakarta today (Sunday) with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said earlier comments by Indonesian officials setting a deadline were only suggestions for a March 26th target date.
He says that date is a benchmark for Jakarta to improve and accelerate its relief effort so that most of the burden by then will be carried out by Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the country's official death toll rose to more than 115,000 today (Sunday) with the reporting of 5,000 more fatalities.
Elsewhere, U.N. officials say Sri Lanka's government has reversed its earlier refusal to allow the head of the World Food Program, James Morris, to visit rebel-held areas hit by the tsunami. He is expected in rebel-controlled Kilinochchi today