US Embassy Denies Envoy Tried Influencing Indonesia Army Chief Choice
The United States embassy in Jakarta on Monday denied press reports that Ambassador Robert Gelbard had tried to weigh in behind a candidate for the post of Indonesia's army chief.
"The US Embassy categorically denies press reports quoting Defence Minister Mahfud MD (Eds: correct) as saying that the US ambassador tried to influence the selection of the Chief of the Army," an embassy press release said.
Mahfud was quoted by the Indonesian media as having said Gelbard had pressed Jakarta to pick outspoken Lieutenant General Agus Wirahadikusumah as the new army chief.
President Abdurrahman Wahid on October 9 named General Endriartono Sutarto as the army chief and Admiral Indroko Sastrowiryono as the head of the navy.
"The appointment of senior officials in the Indonesian government is an internal matter of the Indonesian government.
"Neither the US ambassador nor any other US official sought to influence the decision of the appointment of the army chief or any other Indonesian military official with President Wahid or with any other officials of the Indonesian government," the embassy said.
It also denied Gelbard had met Wirahadikusumah while in Singapore on October 8. Nor had the Indonesian general met any officials of the US government during his recent visit to the United States, it said.
Wirahadikusumah has said he had gone to the United States to visit his son who is studying there.
"The US embassy is deeply concerned by these kinds of false statements emanating from the ministry of defence and elsewhere," the release said, quoting the state department spokesman as labelling the reports as "astonishing and irresponsible."
"They are also harmful to the good relations between the United States and Indonesia."
The Indonesian media reported Mahfud as saying the ambassador had tried to press for Wirahadikusumah's candidacy in a meeting with Wahid.
Wirahadikusumah has made himself many enemies in the army brass by openly calling on the military to pull out from the country's political scene.
His unpopularity grew when he told the press of some irregularities in funds managed by the army's elite Strategic Reserve Command Kostrad in July.
A meeting of the army top brass earlier this month discussed asking Wirahadikusumah to face a military council of honor for having aired the army's dirty linen in public.
Sentiments against the United States have been mounting in the past weeks, mainly because of the perceived US partiality in the Middle East conflict -- JAKARTA (AFP)
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