- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Incitement in Indonesia

Robert Gelbard, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, is the target of protests over accusations that he tried to influence the selection of a new chief of the Indonesian army.

Members of the country's legislature demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Jakarta, yesterday and demanded Mr. Gelbard's expulsion from the Southeast Asian archipelago.

"We plan to take this to the House … and demand that Gelbard be [declared] persona non grata," said Permadi, the House member who led the demonstration.

The embassy yesterday categorically denied press reports that accused Mr. Gelbard of attempting to pressure President Abdurrahman Wahid into naming reform-minded Lt. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah to head the army.

Mr. Wahid last week selected Gen. Endriartono Sutarto for the post.

"The appointment of senior officials in the Indonesian government is an internal matter of the Indonesian government," the embassy said in a statement.

"Neither the U.S. ambassador nor any other U.S. 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 U.S. Embassy is deeply concerned by these kinds of false statements emanating from the Ministry of Defense and elsewhere. They are also harmful to the good relations between the United States and Indonesia."

The embassy also denied reports that Mr. Gelbard met with Gen. Wirahadikusumah while in Singapore on Oct. 8. It added that the general met no U.S. officials on a recent private visit to the United States.

The Indonesian military had quoted Defense Minister Mahfud as accusing Mr. Gelbard of trying to interfere with the selection of the army chief.

Gen. Wirahadikusumah has drawn criticism within the army's top ranks for advocating that the military stay out of the country's political affairs.

Mr. Gelbard, unlike other career diplomats who try to avoid controversy, has been an outspoken critic of corruption since taking up his post in last year.

In an August interview with The Washington Times, he complained that the government has failed to disarm and disband the militias that went on a killing rampage in East Timor after residents there voted for independence in August 1999.

The Far East Economic Review this year described Mr. Gelbard as "an ambassadorial pit bull who likes to cultivate the tough-guy image he earned jousting with Bolivian drug lords and Serbian hard men."

Mr. Gelbard is a former anti-narcotics chief at the State Department and envoy to Bosnia, where he enforced the Dayton peace accords.

McGovern rewarded

George McGovern, the U.S. ambassador to U.N. agencies in Rome, will be among the first two recipients this week of a new award for efforts to combat global hunger.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) yesterday said Mr. McGovern will be given the Food for Life Award in a ceremony in the Italian capital on Thursday.

Mr. McGovern, a former U.S. senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, will receive the honor along with James Ingram, the former executive director of the WFP.

The WFP, in announcing the first winners of the award, said it will be given to recognize staff members for "valor, merit and efficiency."

Mr. McGovern "sets the standard for the award because of his distinguished record of public service," it added.

Mr. McGovern is advocating a guaranteed school lunch program by 2015 for an estimated 500 million children who suffer from hunger.

Diplomatic pleasantry

John Hamilton, the U.S. ambassador to Peru, has a pleasant diplomatic pastime.

A dedicated runner, he is helping Peru's first lady, Keiko Sofia, train for the New York marathon.

The 25-year-old former model is the daughter of President Alberto Fujimori.

Miss Sofia, who took on the duties of first lady after her parents divorced, will run in the Nov. 5 race to support children's and health projects in Peru.

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