- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

Gelbard on home visit

Ambassador Robert Gelbard yesterday returned to the United States for a personal visit, leaving the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia under political siege in a growing anti-American climate.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher insisted Mr. Gelbard's departure was unrelated to the turmoil in Indonesia.

He said the visit is for a "long-scheduled personal event," which he did not disclose.

Mr. Boucher said the State Department "may take advantage of his travel to consult with him, to talk to him about the situation in Indonesia after the family event is over … sometime next week."

Mr. Gelbard left Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, with political critics continuing to complain that he is rude and meddles in the country's domestic affairs.

The embassy, meanwhile, has accused the critics of damaging U.S.-Indonesian relations and creating a climate of anti-Americanism.

The critics are creating "a rapidly deteriorating environment hostile to U.S. interests in Indonesia including investment and tourism," the embassy said.

The State Department this week defended Mr. Gelbard's criticism of the slow pace of reform in Indonesia and said he was carrying out U.S. policy.

The U.S. Embassy remains closed, according to press reports in Indonesia.

Mr. Gelbard shut the embassy to public business last week, citing "credible threats" against the mission.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab revealed last week that Mr. Gelbard had also received a personal death threat.

Some Indonesian politicians, notably Defense Minister Mohammed Mahfud, have called for Mr. Gelbard to be expelled from the country, but President Abdurrahman Wahid has strongly rejected that demand.

Mr. Mahfud yesterday again called for Mr. Gelbard to mind his manners or face expulsion.

"Once again we remind him to change his attitudes and behavior and to cooperate in good manner," Mr. Mahfud said.

National Assembly Speaker Amien Rais on Tuesday said he intends to write President Clinton to demand that Mr. Gelbard be recalled.

Mr. Rais said he has never seen a U.S. ambassador "as rude as Gelbard."

Joko Susilo, a member of the commission on defense, security and foreign affairs, said, "Gelbard seems to have no knowledge of Indonesian culture, unlike previous ambassadors."

New embassies set

The United States and China yesterday announced they will build new embassies in Beijing and Washington, concluding a 10-year effort by the State Department to find a site in the Chinese capital that meets meet embassy security requirements.

"The agreement represents an important step in expanding U.S.-China relations," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

U.S. Ambassador Joseph Prueher and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Tianshun announced the agreement in Beijing.

Under the pact, the United States will lease a 430,560-square-foot site on the outskirts of Beijing and build a new consulate on 322,920 square feet of property in the southern city of Guangzhou.

China will build its new diplomatic mission on 118,404 square feet of space in the International Chancery Center, home to many new embassies off Connecticut Avenue near Van Ness Street NW.

China's current embassy is located at 2300 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Mr. Boucher said the agreement had nothing to do with the mob attacks on the U.S. Embassy in May 1999 after NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia during the war over Kosovo.

"The attempt to get new property to get a new embassy in Beijing predates the embassy bombing by years," he said. "For many years, we've been working on this.

"We're very glad that [Mr.] Prueher and the Chinese have been able to bring these discussions to a conclusion."

In Beijing, the U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying that American diplomats work out of "antiquated facilities."

The new site meets U.S. security requirements imposed after the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

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