Indonesia calls Danish removal of envoys 'too hasty'

Denmark reassures that move is simply for security reasons, no change in diplomatic relations.

flag 88 (photo credit: )
flag 88
(photo credit: )
Indonesia berated Denmark for what it said was a hasty decision to withdraw its consular staff from Jakarta amid outrage over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Anger has been mounting in Muslim countries over caricatures of the prophet, which were first published in a Danish newspaper in September, then reprinted in European papers in recent weeks in the name of press freedom. One showed the prophet with a bomb-shaped turban. The Danish Foreign Ministry said that its entire consular staff, including the ambassador, had been temporarily withdrawn from Indonesia because they had received threats in relation to the cartoon row, but provided no details. Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda dismissed the move as unnecessary, saying protests in the world's most populous Muslim nation had so far been "orderly enough" and that police had boosted security at Denmark's diplomatic facilities. "That decision was too hasty," Wirajuda told reporters attending after an interfaith conference in the capital, Jakarta. "We had established adequate protection for [the Danish diplomats." Denmark later Sunday reassured Indonesia, as well as Syria and Iran where embassy staff were also withdrawn, that the move was purely for security reasons and did not reflect a change in diplomatic relations. "We have not cut the diplomatic relations because my country believes in building bridges, not burning them," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on CNN's "Late Edition." Fogh Rasmussen said he was "deeply distressed" that Muslims had been offended by the cartoons, but reiterated neither the government nor the Danish people could be held responsible for the actions of an independent newspaper. Denmark had also urged all citizens to leave Indonesia, citing credible information that Danes are at risk from an "extremist group." Many Western countries have long warned their citizens not to travel to Indonesia, citing the risk of attacks by al-Qaida linked militants blamed for a string of bloody bombings in recent years. The Indonesian government has said such warnings are a knee-jerk reaction that hurt tourism. Near daily protests in Indonesia over the prophet cartoons have for the most part been peaceful. About 1,000 Muslims Sunday staged a noisy but peaceful demonstration in the West Java town of Sumedang, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) southeast of Jakarta, according to the el-Shinta radio station. Another 500 turned out in Jakarta. Last week, hard-liners briefly stormed the lobby of the high-rise building housing the Danish embassy in Jakarta and threw stones at one of the county's consulate in Surabaya city. No one was attacked and damage was minimal.