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Indonesians Protest at U.S. Embassy

June 5, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Shouting ``Allah is great,″ about 100 Muslim protesters shook the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta today, accusing Washington of interfering in the internal affairs of crisis-ridden Indonesia.

The demonstration follows similar anti-American protests in recent days as Indonesia’s worst economic crisis in 30 years continues to spiral.

On Thursday, in the second largest city of Surabaya, a group pulled down the U.S. flag from outside the U.S. Consulate and tore it up.

Today in Jakarta, a group calling itself the ``Young Generation for Indonesian Development″ sat outside the embassy as a small group of police and soldiers looked on.

``The United States should not intervene in our sovereignty because we are not a beggar nation,″ said protest organizer Mohamad Rudi.

The group alleged that Washington was trying to delay the restart of a $43 billion economic bailout plan for Indonesia by the International Monetary Fund that was put on hold when rioting shook the country last month.

The group also accused the United States of funding anti-government groups, a charge flatly denied by Washington.

An IMF team is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on Monday to assess Indonesia’s crisis in the wake of last month’s resignation by former leader President Suharto.

Suharto ended 32 years of authoritarian rule on May 21 after the world’s fourth-most-populous nation was shaken by a wave of protests triggered by soaring inflation and mass unemployment. An estimated 1,188 people died in the violence.

About 90 percent of Indonesia’s 202 million people are Muslim, making it the world’s largest Islamic nation.

On Thursday, visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Stanley Roth, categorically denied that Washington had dabbled in Indonesia’s political turmoil.

However, he called on new President B.J. Habibie to carry on with promises to reform Indonesia’s rigid political system and to hold free elections.

Roth also warned that international economic assistance for Indonesia would be fruitless unless political stability was established.

Meanwhile, American diplomats evacuated from Indonesia last month are not going back despite a decline in violence, the State Department said Thursday. And American travelers were advised to avoid travel to the Southeast Asian country unless the trip is essential.

Many employees of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya were evacuated in May, leaving only essential American government workers behind. Hundreds of U.S. expatriates and other foreigners also left the country.

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