Condoleezza Rice vows to help Southeast Asia to fight terrorism

U.S. secretary of State Condoleezza Rice vowed Wednesday to help fight terrorism in Southeast Asia, warning that Islamic militants would turn the region into "a ring of fire" if not actively confronted.

Rice, wrapping up a two-day trip to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, said al-Qaida-linked terror groups blamed for a series of bloody attacks in recent years were trying to destroy the multiethnic region's tradition of tolerance.

"We are working alongside countries like Malaysia and Singapore and to build the capacity of others like the Philippines, who have the will to fight terrorism but need help with the means," Rice said in a speech to students, parliamentarians and other local leaders in the Indonesian capital.

She said groups like Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, two of Southeast Asia's most notorious terror outfits, wanted to turn the region into a "ring of fire" and must be fought.

"The United States knows that that terrorists must be actively confronted," she said.

Rice, who met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday, was due to fly to Australia later Wednesday.

Meanwhile, human rights groups on Wednesday criticized Rice for restoring full military ties with Indonesia, saying the army remains a threat to the country's young democracy.

"The (Indonesian armed forces) remains a largely rogue institution which commits human rights violations without concern for the law," said a statement issued jointly in Washington D.C. by four non-governmental groups.

The military was the main pillar of the 32-year dictatorship of former strongman Suharto, who was ousted amid massive pro-democracy street protests in 1998, reports the AP.


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