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Sand ban not related to Singapore talks - Indonesia

JAKARTA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Talks between Indonesia and Singapore on border issues will continue despite a diplomatic dispute over Jakarta's decision to ban sand exports to the city state, Indonesia's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Singapore has criticised Indonesia for reportedly using the sand export ban to pressure it in negotiations on an extradition treaty and border delineation.

However, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said the ban had been prompted by environmental concerns and not by negotiations with Singapore.

He said tiny Singapore's land reclamation efforts would not affect that country's sea border.

"It is possible that they may increase their shore but that does not mean that they move the sea border as since 1973 we have had an agreement," he said.

Singapore's foreign ministry had said earlier it was disappointed by a statement the Jakarta Post newspaper had attributed to an Indonesian official that the sand ban was a "key way of placing more pressure on Singapore in extradition and border delineation talks".

Agreement on both extradition and border issues is within reach despite some sticking points, the Singapore ministry said.

"The official reason for the ban announced last month was environmental protection. (The reported) remarks lead us to wonder whether that was the main reason," it said in a statement.

Singapore had earlier expressed willingness to work with Indonesia on environmental protection, but Indonesia ignored the offer and proceeded with the ban, it said.

Indonesia is eager to have an extradition treaty with Singapore to ensure that Indonesian businessmen who sought refuge in the city state with huge amounts of illegally gotten money could face justice at home.

Indonesia and Singapore have had occasional diplomatic spats.

Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie once called Singapore an "unfriendly little red dot".

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