The United States Wednesday criticized Indonesia's decision to expel an American expert on that country's terrorist groups and separatist movements. The State Department said the move runs counter to recent progress in Indonesia in democracy and free expression.

The State Department said that it is "very concerned" by the Indonesian government's action against Sidney Jones, the Southeast Asia director for International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based private study organization that monitors world trouble spots.

Ms. Jones and an Australian colleague were told last week that their work permits and residence visas were not being renewed. She is still in the country, but said that she has to leave by June 10 and may not return in a working capacity.

Ms. Jones is an expert on the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya and has also written reports critical of the Jakarta government's handing of separatist movements in Aceh and Papua provinces.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States does not necessarily endorse all of Ms. Jones' and her colleagues' analyses. However, he called the ICG's work in Indonesia "very valuable" and said he is unaware of any action by her or the group that the might warrant an expulsion.

He added that the action would be particularly disappointing because it would run counter to "impressive progress" by Indonesia in recent years in developing a democratic civil society with freedom of expression.

?We're intending to endorse the right of scholars, academics, [and] analysts to do analysis, to do serious work, and to publish the results, publish the information, their conclusions,? he said. ?We think there has been a noticeable increase in freedom of expression in Indonesia and this step of asking the head of this organization's office to leave would stand in contrast to that.?

Mr. Boucher said U.S. diplomats have repeatedly raised the pending expulsion with authorities in Jakarta and will continue to do so.

Ms. Jones has attributed the action against her to the director of Indonesia's state intelligence agency, General Hendropriyono, who has criticized her work and accused a number of non-governmental groups including the ICG of endangering national security in advance of presidential elections July 5.

The action by Indonesian authorities has also sparked protests from human rights groups and others who have compared it to tactics used during the authoritarian rule of the Suharto era.