Tuesday, November 21, 2006
"US President George Bush shrugged off massive protests against his visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation yesterday as a sign of a healthy democracy, as thousands braved heavy rains to call him a war criminal and a terrorist.
Bush also pledged to work with Indonesia's government to fight Islamic extremists.
The archipelago is considered an important ally in Washington's war on terror, but public anger is high over US foreign policy in the Middle East and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, seen by many here as attacks on their faith.
Bush and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held "frank" and "sometimes critical" discussions on those issues, the Indonesian leader said, and also talked about ways the US could help fight a spiraling bird flu outbreak, set up a tsunami early warning system and improve education.
Security was tight amid reports that al-Qaida-linked militants could try to disrupt Bush's six-hour visit to the sleepy city of Bogor, just south of the capital, Jakarta, with thousands of rifle-toting soldiers patrolling the streets, mobile phone signals jammed, and water cannons deployed.
Demonstrations by Islamic hard-liners, students, housewives and taxi drivers have been staged every day this month and nearly 10,000 turned out to meet the US president on Monday, some holding banners that said "Bush is a terrorist!" and "Go to Hell."
Others called him a war criminal and chanted "Allah Akbar" or "God is great." Students in at least two cities tried to seal off American-owned restaurants, sometimes clashing with police."