Australian PM to Open Bali Eye Center

SEMINYAK ~ Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard arrived in Bali on Friday to open a new eye center and Australian Consulate, and to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his office said.

“Indonesia is a very important partner for Australia, not least because of our close proximity, strong political, security and economic ties and extensive people-to-people links,” Howard said in a statement received by The Bali Times.

Howard arrived from East Timor, where he met with the country’s new government and Australian troops serving in the former Indonesian territory.

It is the prime minister’s 13th visit to Indonesia since he took office more than 11 year ago.

The AUS$7 million (US$6.2 million) Australia-Bali Memorial Eye Centre Eye Centre is to “provide world-class eye treatment services for the large number of Indonesians affected by blindness, and high quality training facilities for Indonesian eye specialists,” the statement said.

“I look forward to reviewing with President Yudhoyono the full range of our existing cooperative activities, including in important areas such as security, counter-terrorism and transnational crime,” Howard said in the statement.

“I also anticipate discussing the recommendation by trade ministers to conduct a feasibility study into a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. Our trading relationship is an important one: Indonesia ranks 10th on our list of export destinations. I am keen to explore how it can be further strengthened,” the Australian leader said.

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