SINGAPORE has rebuked the American State Department in a statement which widens a row between the two governments over an article in the International Herald Tribune. The article is the subject of contempt of court proceedings and a libel action against the author, American academic Dr Christopher Lingle, and representatives of the paper. The libel action was filed by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Foreign Ministry said it was astonished by comments made by State Department spokesman Mike McCurry, who expressed regret that the Government of Singapore and Mr Lee were 'taking these steps'. Mr McCurry said the United States believed it was 'better in democratic societies to discuss issues openly and freely'. A Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman said Mr Lee's libel suit against the paper was 'the action of a private citizen, not of the Singapore Government'. He said Mr McCurry maintained that Dr Lingle's article was no more than an exercise of his right to freedom of expression. 'If so, why did the [newspaper] on December 10 acknowledge that a passage in Lingle's article could be understood as suggesting that Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew relied on a compliant judiciary to bankrupt opposition politicians in Singapore and unreservedly apologise to Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew?'