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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indonesian Muslim leader snubs Clinton

The Jakarta Post

An Indonesian Islamic leader rejected Wednesday an invitation to dine with Hillary Clinton, as she seeks to rebuild ties with the Muslim world on her first trip abroad as US secretary of state, Antara news agency reported.

The snub came as Clinton was set to arrive later Wednesday in the world's most populous Muslim country as part of a four-nation swing through Asia.

But her plans to open a new chapter with the Islamic world as promised by President Barack Obama received an early setback when local Muslim leader Din Syamsuddin, representing some 30 million Muslims, rejected her dinner invite.

"If it's only a dinner without a dialogue it won't be useful," the chairman of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Islamic organisation, told AFP.

He said he would prefer to attend an inter-faith meeting in Australia rather than waste time discussing local delicacies with the new US secretary of state.

"That kind of meeting won't be effective," he said.

Obama spent part of his early childhood in Muslim-majority Indonesia and has promised rapprochement with the Islamic world after the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan under George W. Bush.

"We have a responsibility to speak out and to work with the Muslim world on behalf of positive change and to enlist the help of Muslims around the world against the extremists," Clinton told students at Tokyo University on Tuesday.

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