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Obama: Indonesia Trip Still Something He Looks Forward To

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has assured the people of Indonesia that he is looking forward to visiting his former home once the health care debate is resolved.

Obama put off a trip to Indonesia until this summer as the health care overhaul gained steam in Congress this week. A vote in the House is likely this weekend, and the president decided he should remain in Washington.

In an interview airing Friday on RCTI, Indonesia's largest commercial television network, Obama said it makes sense to wait until June so he and his family are not rushed when they visit Indonesia, where he lived for four years as a child.

Obama said he looks forward to buying some bakso (bah-so), a meatball soup, when he returns to Indonesia.

In Jakarta, Indonesian officials said they understand and are not disappointed by Obama's decision. Australia's leader said he too sympathized with Obama's situation.

Obama already had delayed his trip to Indonesia and Australia by several days in a bid to rally last-minute votes for his health care bill. The $940 billion bill, which would expand coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, comes to a vote in the House on Sunday.

The visit to Jakarta was meant to be a homecoming of sorts for the president, who spent four years in the world's largest Muslim country as a boy when his mother married an Indonesian man. A statue of Obama as a child has been erected at the elementary school he attended.

Obama was scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Jakarta and then was to fly to Canberra, Australia, for a quick one-day visit.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his government "fully understands" the reason behind the delay and was "not disappointed."

"Even though we've been prepared for the visit, (the delay is) not the end of the world," he said.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Seven Network television that Obama had called him on Friday.

"We had a good conversation, but it's going to be good to see him later in the year," Rudd said. "He'd like to have a more relaxed visit than the 24-hour whip in, whip out that the last one had come down to."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama regretted having to delay the trip, but told the leaders of both nations that health care is a crucial priority.

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