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Friday, February 20, 2009

Clinton ends visit with charm offensive


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked to waste no time during her tightly arranged visit to Indonesia, which wound up Thursday.

Her mission to put a new face on US foreign policy, one that was friendlier and willing to be a “better listener” than ever, has seemingly been accomplished.

The new US secretary of state did everything from holding serious talks with Indonesian leaders, to sharing her fancy for classical music in front of a local TV audience.

After meeting with Indonesia Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, visiting the ASEAN Secretariat and having dinner with civil society figures on Wednesday, Clinton appeared on a local TV show, paid a courtesy call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and visited a slum area in Jakarta on Thursday before departing to South Korea later in the afternoon.

On Thursday morning, Clinton, her face wreathed in smiles, appeared in music program Dahsyat on local broadcaster RCTI, in which the relaxed former first lady shared with the audience her love of classical music.

“I like listening to classical music while working. It's soothing... My husband usually listens to jazz and rock and roll,” Clinton said when model-cum-presenter Luna Maya asked her about her favorite music.

Clinton also said she enjoyed the Beatles and the Rolling Stones when she was younger.
However, she turned down a request to sing, saying, “The problem is people will leave when I sing.”

The TV show also presented famous local singers Melly Goeslaw and Agnes Monica, who asked for a photograph with Clinton.

RCTI corporate secretary Gilang Iskandar told newsportal that Clinton enjoyed the talk about music so much that she forgot the interview should have lasted for only 10 minutes instead of 20.

Gilang said RCTI had worked hard to secure Clinton’s approval to appear on the TV show.

During the meeting with President Yudhoyono, Clinton reiterated Washington's willingness to build a “comprehensive partnership” with Indonesia, while praising the latter’s “leading roles” in a number of environmental issues.

She also said predominantly Muslim Indonesia could serve as a model of how Islam, democracy, modernization and the fulfillment of women’s rights could all grow in harmony, according to presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal.

Yudhoyono, in return, asked the US to play a bigger role in resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict and to take the lead in global environmental issues.

The President called his meeting with Clinton a “wonderful” and “productive” meeting.

Also present at the 45-minute talk were Acting Coordinating Minister for the Economy Sri Mulyani, Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie, State Secretary Hatta Rajasa and Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi.

Through Clinton, the President renewed his invitation to US President Barack Obama to come to Indonesia on the sidelines of the upcoming APEC meeting in Singapore.

Obama has said he would visit a major Muslim nation, in a move aimed at reconciling the US and the Islamic world.

After bidding farewell to Yudho-yono and before stepping into a waiting car, Clinton greeted enthusiastic journalists lined up nearby and shook hands with the lucky ones, leaving others disappointed.

She then paid a visit to Petojo Utara, a residential area in Central Jakarta, where USAID has built a public toilet equipped with a waste treatment facility.

Clinton walked on foot to reach the toilet, during which dozens of neighborhood school students, who had been watching, waved at her. She waved back at them.

However, Clinton missed the chance to have a taste of fried bananas and fried tempe prepared by local housewives.

She stayed only around 15 minutes in Petojo before heading to the airport.

During a press conference at the neighborhood state junior high school SMPN 38, Clinton said she had planned this brief visit as part of her people-to-people approach to diplomacy.

“Through this kind of interaction, I can find out what the public feels and can encourage them to better their quality of life,” she said.

Due to her tight schedule, Clinton failed to attend a cooking demonstration that local housewives had organized.

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