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Summit Could Help Combat Terrorism in Southeast Asia
Phil Mercer
VOA, Sydney
10 Aug 2003, 14:12 UTC

Indonesia's foreign minister is expected to visit Australia within weeks to plan a regional summit on fighting terrorism in Southeast Asia. The announcement came as an 11th person died as a result of last week's suicide bombing at a Jakarta hotel.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said a counter-terrorism summit would bring together governments from around the Asia-Pacific region and the United States. It would focus on how intelligence can be shared and how police forces can cooperate more efficiently.

Mr. Downer said his Indonesian counterpart, Hasan Wirayuda, is expected to travel to Australia in the coming weeks to plan the summit. His visit would reinforce security ties between Canberra and Jakarta, which have strengthened during the investigation into last October's bombings on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.

Eighty-eight Australians were among the 202 people who died in that bombing. Last Thursday, the first of dozens of suspects in that attack was sentenced to death.

Two days before the sentencing, a car bomb exploded outside the J.W. Marriott Hotel in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The death toll in that bombing rose to 11 Sunday after a severely-burned taxi driver died in the hospital.

The bombing prompted renewed warnings from both Australian and U.S. officials that Islamic extremists were planning new attacks in the region. The group allegedly behind the bombings is Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional Muslim group that has been linked by officials of several countries with the al-Qaida terror network.

The suspected spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, called on Indonesian Muslims Sunday to work to transform their nation into a strict Islamic state.

Mr. Bashir's statement called for Muslims to work peacefully to introduce Muslim law in Indonesia. Mr. Bashir himself is on trial for alleged participation in several fatal bombings and for plotting to overthrow the government. The statement was issued from his jail cell.

Some 3,000 Muslim militants rallied in the Javanese city of Solo on Sunday in support of Mr. Bashir. Members of an Islamic paramilitary force were among the demonstrators, and people at the rally sold extremist literature and videos showing alleged mistreatment of Muslims in Chechnya and the Middle East.