Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid will harm his country's stature if he follows through on plans to visit Iraq this year, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Saturday.
Albright said such a trip would be inappropriate and ill-advised and urged Wahid to heed Washington's advice which was pointedly ignored by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez when he traveled to Baghdad on Thursday and Friday.
"It's not up to me to tell Wahid what to do. I think, however, it does not enhance the stature of any country to go there," Albright told AFP in an interview after the annual US-Mexico-Canada foreign ministers' meeting.
"I think it would be very useful (for the Indonesian leader to listen to US advice), President Wahid has a great deal to do in Indonesia," she said.
"We obviously give advice, other countries give us advice, if countries don't want to take it, that's their problem," Albright said, cataloguing the reasons why visiting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a bad idea.
"I don't believe that countries gain in stature by going to visit the head of a state who has invaded a neighboring country, who has gassed his own people, who has tried to acquire weapons of mass destruction and who has not returned Kuwait property or made an accounting of Kuwaiti prisoners of war."
"I don't think that this improves the standing of any country," she said.
Earlier Saturday, Wahid said he would visit Iraq in the coming months, telling reporters that like Chavez, who became the first head of state to meet the Iraqi president since the Gulf War in 1991, he would not be bowed by US objections to the trip.
"I will visit Baghdad at the end of the summer," Wahid said at a joint press conference with Chavez, who arrived in Jakarta Saturday as part of a tour of members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) nations.
The United States, through its third-highest ranking diplomat, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Pickering, had already asked Wahid not to visit Iraq or other countries Washington regards as state sponsors of terrorism, but the Indonesian leader rejected the request.
"We are not a lackey of the US," Wahid said after Pickering made his comments. "We are free to go anywhere."
That reaction is similar to the feeling expressed by Chavez when Washington advised him not to travel to Iraq early last week.
Albright said she was unimpressed with countries that pursued controversial activities for the sake of standing up to Washington.
"Doing something to spite the United States is not exactly great policy," Albright said, adding that she was "surprised" Chavez had gone ahead with the visit -- SANTA FE, New Mexico (AFP)
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