Clinton Works to Rehab US Image

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton is continuing the Obama administration's efforts to
rehabilitate America's image abroad, especially with Muslims,
during a visit to Indonesia that began Wednesday.

It is the second stop in her inaugural overseas trip as the top
U.S. diplomat.

While in Jakarta, Clinton intends to announce plans to step up
U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia, stressing the growing
importance of a region that often felt slighted by the Bush
administration.

Her two-day schedule in Indonesia includes a visit to the
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat, and she is likely to
signal U.S. intent to sign the regional bloc's Treaty of Amity and
Cooperation. Clinton will also pledge to attend the group's annual
foreign ministers meeting in Thailand this year, U.S. officials
said.

Development and climate change also will top the agenda during
her meetings with Indonesian leaders, along with the Iranian
nuclear dispute and the war in Afghanistan.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Islamic nation, and it
has personal ties for President Barack Obama, who spent four years
of his childhood here. Among those who turned out at the airport to
welcome Clinton were 44 children from his former elementary school,
singing traditional folk songs and waving Indonesian and U.S.
flags.

During Clinton's first stop in Japan, her two days of talks
focused mostly on North Korea's belligerent rhetoric and threats of
a missile test, and on the global financial crisis. After 24 hours
in Indonesia, she travels to South Korea and China, where Pyongyang
will again likely be a major topic.

But in Tokyo on Tuesday, Clinton previewed the new approach to
dialogue she will try out in Southeast Asia. During a town hall
student meeting, she said the United States was under new
management.

"America is ready to listen again," she said. "Too often in
the recent past, our government has not heard the different
perspectives of people around the world. In the Obama
administration, we intend to change that."

Later, in response to a student question about the Bush
administration's perceived "prejudice" against Muslims in the war
on terrorism, Clinton lamented that America's failure to
communicate its intentions with the world is "one of the central
security challenges we face."

She also acknowledged that the task had gotten harder because of
the hugely unpopular war in Iraq, which she supported as a senator,
but came to oppose. That conflict, she said, was "viewed as wrong
by many in the world."

"I think that the war on Iraq made our argument more difficult
because although they just had peaceful elections, as you know,
that they never would have had under Saddam Hussein, the process
was extremely controversial," Clinton said.

Still, she stressed, the administration would not shy from the
topic.

"I think you will see from President Obama and those of us in
his administration a concerted effort to present a different
position to the Islamic world without in any way stopping our
efforts to prevent terrorism," Clinton said.


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