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September 5, 2009

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Dance clip trips up diplomatic relations

MALAYSIA tried yesterday to soothe anger in Indonesia over the use of a Balinese dance in a promotional spot for a TV documentary series on Malaysia, with officials laying the blame on cable network Discovery Channel.

The clip sparked outrage in Indonesia, with hundreds staging rallies and accusing Malaysia of stealing the "Pendet" dance from the Indonesian resort island of Bali, in the latest cultural dispute between the neighbors.

Cultural Minister Rais Yatim said the mistake was committed by Discovery Channel, which produced the 30-second clip to promote its series "Enigmatic Malaysia."

Indonesian officials said Malaysia had promised to reprimand the production house. Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific said it regretted using the image of the Balinese dancer, which it said was sourced from an independent third party.

"The promotional clip has been removed from all feeds," it said, adding that it had no intention of causing any misunderstanding or distress.

Rais said the clip had nothing to do with any film producers in Malaysia and "there is no need to fight in public or be emotional."

The two countries share Islam as their main religion and have similar national languages, but have had a history of testy relations.

In late 2007, Indonesia threatened to sue Malaysia for using traditional Indonesian songs and dances in its national tourism campaign. The two countries established a high-level panel to resolve the dispute.

On Tuesday, about 30 Indonesians pelted the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta with rotten eggs and attempted to hoist an Indonesian flag at the gate to protest against the video, The Star newspaper said. Hundreds of art students also staged protests on campuses nationwide.


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