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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Megawati condemns anti-US 'sweep'
Indonesian protesters
There have been daily anti-US protests in Jakarta
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri appealed for calm on Tuesday and condemned threats by Muslim militants to attack citizens of the US and its allies if Washington launches strikes against Afghanistan.

Speaking against a backdrop of rising anti-American sentiment, she said "sweeping", or searching the country for foreigners with the aim of driving them out of the country, was tarnishing Indonesia's image.

Protesters burning US flag
Authorities fear protests could become violent
She said that, in accordance with eastern values, foreigners should be respected as guests of the nation.

In the first sign of a harder government line, a senior official told the Jakarta Post newspaper any Indonesians who travelled to Afghanistan to join a jihad or holy war could lose their citizenship.

Muhamad Indra, a director at the immigration office, said allowing Indonesians to enter Afghanistan and join military groups to fight the US would be tantamount to declaring war on the US.

Hundreds of volunteers

He said immigration offices would be ordered not to issue travel documents for such purposes.

The Islamic Youth Movement (GPI) says it has registered hundreds of jihad volunteers in Jakarta alone.

GPI chairman M Iqbal Siregar told the Jakarta Post the number could reach several thousand if volunteers from elsewhere in Indonesia were included.

The US has warned its citizens not to travel to Indonesia and last week authorised non-essential embassy staff to leave Jakarta if they wished.

Ambassador threatened

The move came folllowing daily anti-US demonstrations in Jakarta, and, in one of the main cities on the central island of Java, an incident last week in which Muslim extremists searched hotels for American guests.

Indonesian police outside US embassy
Indonesian police have stepped up security
No foreigners have so far been reported harmed but the life of US ambassador Robert Gelbard has been threatened.

Last week, Mr Gelbard criticised police for not acting against the threats. Jakarta's police chief said they were powerless because nobody had yet broken the law.

President Megawati was the first Muslim leader to visit Washington in the aftermath of the attacks there and on New York.

Indonesia, which is the world's largest Muslim nation, is seen as vital member of US President George W Bush's global coalition against terrorism.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta
"The United States risks a violent backlash here"
See also:

27 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Anti-US rally raises Jakarta tension
25 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia clerics threaten jihad
19 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Islamic groups warn of Indonesia violence
17 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush seeks Muslim support
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Laskar Jihad?
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Islam: Faith under fire
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