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Clinton outlines better ties with SE Asia

UNITED States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton moved yesterday to boost America's ties with the world's most populous Muslim nation and its neighbors, pledging a new willingness to work with and listen to Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Her message was received warmly by officials in Jakarta, the childhood home of President Barack Obama, although small and scattered protests were held in several cities, with some people setting tires on fire.

She said her choice of Asia for her first overseas trip as Obama's top diplomat was "no accident" and a sign of the new administration's desire for broader and deeper relations with the continent on regional and global issues.

Clinton, who arrived from a stop in Japan and will head today to South Korea and China tomorrow, was effusive about Indonesia, which she said deserved praise for its multi-ethnic democracy and efforts to fight terrorism.

She announced plans to restart Peace Corps programs in Indonesia that were suspended in 1965 when volunteers were expelled after leftists accused them of espionage. And she said the two countries would cooperate on climate change, trade, education, regional security and a host of other issues, while indicating that more development aid was on the way.

"I bring greetings from President Obama, who has himself said and written about the importance of his time here as a young boy," Clinton said at a news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.


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