US Embassy Accuses Indonesian Ministers of Damaging Ties with US
The US embassy here has accused Indonesian ministers of waging a misinformation campaign to try to rupture Jakarta-Washington ties.
The mission also said it would remain closed to the public for two more days next week due to security threats.
In a blunt and sharply worded press release issued late Friday, the embassy said it was "deeply disappointed by the actions of senior Indonesian officials who seemed determined to create a rift in an otherwise historically strong relationship."
The embassy's public services section, which was closed from Wednesday to Friday this week due to a "credible" security threat, would remain closed on Monday and Tuesday.
The press release, entitled a correction to "statements regarding embassy security" accused Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab of "public misrepresentation" of a "private conversation" with US ambassador Robert Gelbard concerning security at the embassy.
Shihab on Thursday said the threats had included death threats to Gelbard. But the minister publicly shrugged off the threats, quipping that: "Everybody can make phone calls and it should not be taken seriously."
The embassy's statement retorted: "Instead of emphasizing host country concern and lawful commitment to help protect the US mission from attack, statements were made attempting to trivialize a credible threat to US diplomatic premises.
"In accordance with US policy such decisions are made on a serious assessment of the nature of the threat and thd risks involved."
In addition to singling out Shihab, the note also said that the embassy was "dismayed" by statements by the country's new defence minister Muhammad Mahfud.
Mahfud, it said, had "perpetuated falsehoods" including a charge that an American citizen arrested last week had been spying.
"Once again the embassy laments that the defense minister's reported false accusatory statements, along with those of other cabinet level officials are contributing to a misinformation campaign that is creating a rapidly deteriorating environment hostile to US interests in Indonesia including investment and tourism," it said.
Meanwhile the state Antara news agency carried comments by President Abdurrahman Wahid which appeared clearly designed to control the fallout of the spiraling war of words between Gelbard and ministers in his government.
"Never," Antara quoted Wahid as saying on Saturday when asked, as suggested by some strongly-nationalistic politicians, whether he would declare the outspoken Gelbard persona non grata.
"An ambassador is an envoy of a sovereign country so we must honor him rather than declaring him persona non grata," Wahid said while attending a celebration of Youth Oath day in the central Kalimantan city of Palangkaraya.
In Jakarta on Friday, Wahid's spokesman Wimar Witoeler also tried to pour oil on troubled waters, and disassociate the presidency from the row with Gelbard.
"The government, the president and the foreign minister are very eager to maintain a good bilateral relationship between Indonesian and the US," Witoelar told journalists at the state palace.
"In our view, the relationship between Indonesia and the US has always been normal as in the past, and hopefully the activities at the US embassy can return to normal."
Security of the US embassy facilities here would be "guaranteed by the Indonesian government," Witoelar added – JAKARTA (AFP)
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