- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2000

Threats in Indonesia

U.S. Ambassador to Jakarta Robert Gelbard closed the U.S. Embassy to the public after receiving death threats, the Indonesian foreign minister said yesterday.

"He told me there had been bomb threats against the embassy. He also said he had received death threats," Alwi Shihab told reporters in the capital, Jakarta, after meeting with Mr. Gelbard Wednesday.

Mr. Shihab said he had told Mr. Gelbard not to worry.

"Everybody can make phone calls and it should not be taken seriously," Mr. Shihab said.

The State Department has said the embassy was closed yesterday and today because of "credible threats," which it did not reveal.

Mr. Shihab said he summoned Mr. Gelbard to the Foreign Ministry to discuss local press reports that accused the ambassador of trying to influence President Abdurrahman Wahid's appointment of a new army chief of staff.

"I asked for a clarification. He said, 'It's not true that I tried to influence the president over the appointment,' " Mr. Shihab said.

Anti-American tensions have been growing for weeks, influenced by public accusations of Defense Minister Mahfud and by the violence in the Middle East.

The embassy has been the scene of almost daily protests by students and Muslim groups that have denounced the United States for its support of Israel.

Protesters waved banners that read "Kill Jews" and "Israel, you are a devil" in demonstrations Wednesday.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Islamic nation. About 85 percent of its 210 million citizens are Muslim.

The Southeast Asian nation has maintained close ties with Palestinian groups, while it has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

The embassy on Monday accused Mahfud of spreading disinformation and "creating a climate of anti-Americanism in Indonesia."

Mahfud claims Mr. Gelbard interfered in domestic affairs by trying to influence the appointment of a new army chief and by blocking the deportation of an American tourist whom Mahfud accused of spying.

The Foreign Ministry has said it has no information to support that charge.

Dumping on the bill

The ambassadors of Canada, Japan and the European Union are lobbying President Clinton to veto a new anti-dumping bill that they claim is really a bill against fair competition.

They object to a provision in the measure that would allow American companies to receive compensation to settle dumping claims from the proceeds of U.S. tariffs levied on foreign steel and apples that Washington claims already are priced below fair market value.

Japan has complained that the bill could amount to a U.S. government subsidy for firms facing foreign competition.

"We are writing to you as the diplomatic representatives of the most important partners of the United States in the World Trade Organization," Ambassadors Shunji Yanai of Japan, Michael Kergin of Canada and Gunter Burghardt of the European Union wrote in a letter this week to Mr. Clinton.

"As we have each separately indicated to the U.S. Trade Representative and congressional leadership, we view this section of the bill as a serious violation of U.S. obligations under the antidumping and … [tariff] codes of the [World Trade Organization]."

Talking 'Big Oil'

Venezuela Ambassador Alfredo Toro Hardy isn't afraid of "Big Oil."

In fact, he is courting any big U.S. energy company he can find to tell them of the investment opportunities in his country.

"Venezuela is, after Russia, the best-endowed nation on earth in terms of the quantity and diversity of its energy resources," Mr. Toro Hardy said this week at an energy conference he sponsored in Houston.

His country has 221 billion barrels of total oil reserves, the most in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth-largest in the world, he said.

With 147 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, Venezuela is second to the United States in this hemisphere, he said.

Mr. Toro Hardy also cited Venezuela's location, the quality of its labor force and legal system as additional reasons for investment.

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