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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
US denies Jakarta spy charges
Jakarta embassy protest
The charges come at a time of tensions over the Middle East crisis
The US Embassy in Jakarta has denied accusations from the Indonesian Government that an American citizen, posing as a tourist, had been engaged in spying in the troubled province of Irian Jaya.

In a statement, the embassy accused Defence Minister Mohammad Mahfud of attempting to whip up anti-American feelings with the allegations.

On Sunday the minister was quoted as saying that a US national, identified in the Indonesian media as Aaron Maness of West Valley City, Utah, had been arrested on suspicion of espionage and stirring up separatism in the eastern province.

Irian Jaya separatist protest
Officias say Mr Maness was accused of encouraging separatism in Irian Jaya
Officials said he was arrested after photographing victims of clashes between security forces and pro-independence supporters in Irian Jaya earlier this month.

Quoted in the English-language Jakarta Post, the defence minister admitted he had no concrete evidence that Mr Maness had been spying but said he suspected him of encouraging separatism in the province.

He added that the US Ambassador to Jakarta, Robert Gelbard, had intervened to prevent Mr Maness from being deported.

He gave no details of how the ambassador had intervened or where Mr Maness was now being held.

No contact

However, the US Embassy has denied that it had interfered in the case in any way.

A spokesman told the BBC that the embassy fully respected the laws of Indonesia and had had no contact with Mr Maness.

The Indonesian accusations come at a time of growing tension between the US and Indonesia, with Washington's Jakarta embassy becoming a target of Muslim demonstrations over the violence in the Middle East.

In its statement the embassy said it was "dismayed and perplexed by these and other false statements...against the United States".

It added that the charges hinted at "a climate of anti-Americanism in Indonesia [which was] undermining the warm and close relationship that Indonesia and the United States have enjoyed for many years".

Last month the defence minister accused the US of being partly to blame for the problems in disarming pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor, because of Washington's embargo on military ties.

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See also:

09 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tensions high in Irian Jaya
07 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia flag row death toll rises
04 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya declared independent
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya looks to future
01 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya: A troubled history
01 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia apologises to Irian Jaya
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