Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia has offered Iraq training programs to help its diplomats and police officers better handle the challenges the war-torn country faces.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda discussed his country's experience in handling conflict, crisis and fighting terrorism with visiting Iraqi deputy foreign minister Labeed M. Abbawi during their meeting here Tuesday.

During the meeting, Abbawi, the first Iraqi high-ranking official to come to Indonesia since the fall of Saddam Hussein four years ago, briefed the foreign minister about the situation in Iraq and told him what the country needed from Indonesia.

"As a country having great interest in seeing positive progress in Iraq, Indonesia welcomes a first-hand explanation directly from an Iraqi official on the country's improving situation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo told The Jakarta Post after the meeting.

"Pak Hassan explained that just like Iraq, Indonesia is also a pluralistic society so there many things that can be shared," he added.

He said minister Hassan had invited Iraqi diplomats to join the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's training programs in Jakarta and Iraqi police officers to take part in terrorism training sessions in Semarang.

Kristiarto added that Abbawi also asked the Indonesian government to re-open its embassy in Baghdad and turn their good relations into deeper ties that included economic cooperation.

"We will consider the request because, according to him, the security situation has improved significantly compared to six months ago, with violence reducing by over 60 percent," he said.

During an interview with the Post on Monday, Abbawi said Iraq could use Indonesia's help to enhance the capacity of its officials as the country was now undergoing a decentralization process that needed capable officials.

He also said that his country could learn from Indonesia's police to fight the terrorist groups blamed for attacks that have killed thousands of people across the country.

Abbawi also invited Indonesian businesspeople to invest in Iraq as there existed huge business opportunities, infrastructure reconstruction, the oil and gas sector and in the manufacturing field.

"The opportunities are wide open for Indonesian businesspeople to open their businesses in Iraq," he said.

Sectarian conflict has torn apart Iraq since the invasion by the U.S. and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. President George W. Bush is under mounting pressure to pull out U.S. troops after more than four years of war, in which more than 3,700 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.

Abbawi said that Iraqi military and police were now much stronger and could take over security responsibility from foreign troops step by step.

"We don't want to see foreign troops in our country. Ultimately, we will have to take care of our own security so we are preparing for that. However, it is still difficult to tell when the foreign troops can be pulled out. I guess at least not until the end of the first semester of next year," he said.

"People say funny things......."

Peter Kay