Britain and Indonesia agree to boost ties

Indonesia and Britain agreed Thursday to strengthen anti-terror ties, but Islamic leaders told visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair that his policies were breeding extremism.

The five Islamic leaders, known as moderates on social and political issues, urged Blair to withdraw British troops from Iraq and talk to the recently elected Hamas government in the West Bank during a discussion at the presidential palace.

"He didn't respond specifically to our requests, but hopefully tonight he will wake up and realize our suggestions make good sense," said Din Syamsudin, leader of the country's second largest Muslim group Muhammadiah.

"We told him to withdraw his troops from Iraq because the occupation is only promoting more radicalism and new acts of terrorism," Syamsudin said.

Blair's trip is the first by a British prime minister to Indonesia in more than two decades, showing the Southeast Asian country's renewed importance to Western nations fighting extremists and seeking alliances with moderate Muslims.

Blair met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a private discussion at the palace, where the two leaders agreed to expand defense ties and cooperation in the war on terror.

"We agreed to increase the efficiency in our efforts in fighting transnational crimes like terrorism," Yudhoyono said.

Blair added that the two nations "are going to work closely" on ways to combat international terror.

Neither leader elaborated on the details of the proposed cooperation.

Indonesia has a long tradition of moderation and secular rule, but is battling al-Qaida-linked militants blamed for several bombings in recent years, including two sets of attacks on the resort island of Bali, reports the AP.


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