Government officials expressed chagrin Thursday over the U.S. State Department's ouster of a Singapore diplomat but said they wanted to put the row with their No. 1 trading partner behind them.

The softened stance emerged as members of the American Business Council expressed indignation over the accusations that the United States was meddling in Singapore's domestic politics.

The ouster of Robert Chua as first secretary of the Singapore Embassy in Washington is a "face-saving means of retaliating," said Yatiman Yusof, parliamentary secretary of foreign affairs.

The State Department sought Chua's removal in retaliation for the expulsion of E. Mason Hendrickson, the first secretary of the American Embassy in Singapore accused of urging dissident lawyers to run for office against the ruling Peoples Action Party.