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JAKARTA, Indonesia (The Jakarta Post/Irian News, Dec. 24) - The Indonesian government said it would allow U.S. federal agents to participate in the investigation of the Aug. 30 shooting at the PT Freeport Indonesia gold mine in Timika, Papua, which killed two American workers and one Indonesian.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the government, however, would only allow American participation as part of a team led by the Indonesian police.

Susilo said the U.S. had a right to seek information about the deadly ambush at PT Freeport because "two of its citizens were killed in the incident."

He said "The establishment of a joint investigative team involving the Indonesian police and FBI officers is possible, but we must first draw up a framework for collaboration to avoid any excesses, such as the taking over of our (Indonesian) police's functions there," Susilo told reporters.

Even so, Susilo could not yet say how many FBI officers would be involved in the investigation as currently there were two separate investigations being carried out by the police and the military.

"We are still conducting a further evaluation of the results of the investigations carried out by the local police as well as by the 514th battalion, which was in charge of guarding Freeport, as we found some differences between these and we need to synchronize them," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush earlier called for a Bali-style joint investigation into the Freeport ambush and made a request to Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri in the past two weeks.

FBI officers have reportedly visited Papua twice to monitor the progress of the Indonesian investigation into the ambush, which was carried out by unknown gunmen on employees of an international school operated by Freeport.

Bush's request was likely made following the slow progress and uncertainty surrounding the investigations being carried out by both the Indonesian police and the military.

Indonesian police in Papua earlier alleged the involvement of several officers of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) in the ambush, which killed three and injured about a dozen others.

The police also said that they had failed to carry out a thorough investigation because "we cannot question military officers."

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has pleaded innocence and blamed Kelly Kwalik, a leader of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), who has denied any links to the attack.

In a related development, TNI has sued The Washington Post for reporting in November that, according to "highly reliable" sources and other information, prior to the ambush, several officers, including TNI Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, allegedly discussed an operation against Freeport with the ultimate aim of discrediting the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

The military demanded that the Post make a public apology but the newspaper declined.

December 26, 2002

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