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Indonesia to Review Cooperation with Australia Due to Spying Claims

by VOA News November 18, 2013

Indonesia says it will review all cooperation with Australia in response to revelations Australian spies tried to listen to phone conversations of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced the move Monday, after the spying allegations appeared in reports by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and The Guardian newspaper.

Natalegawa accused Australia of violating 'every single decent and legal instrument' of international relations and said it has 'not been a good day' in the Indonesia-Australia relationship.

Indonesia also recalled its ambassador from Australia for consultations. Foreign Minister Natalegawa said he advised the Indonesian diplomat to bring more than just 'cabin baggage,' suggesting the recall may be prolonged.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott declined to confirm or deny the spying reports. But in remarks to parliament, he said 'all governments know that every other government gathers information.'

Abbott said Australia uses such information to 'help' its friends and allies, not to harm them. He said Australia's 'most important' relationship is with Indonesia and vowed that he will never do anything to damage 'close cooperation' between the two neighbors.

Natalegawa said Indonesia is not satisfied with the Australian prime minister's comments.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. and The Guardian said the Australian spying revelations came from secret documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. They said the documents show Australian intelligence agents tracked activity on the mobile phone of Indonesian President Yudhoyono for 15 days in 2009.

The news agencies said the Snowden leaks also show that Australian spies intercepted at least one call involving Yudhoyono and tapped the phones of his wife Kristiani Herawati and eight other government officials.

Australian-Indonesian relations have been under strain for weeks. Indonesia summoned the Australian ambassador in Jakarta last month to complain about media reports claiming the diplomat's embassy was part of a vast U.S.-led surveillance network.

Abbott also has upset many Indonesians by ordering his government to turn boats of Australia-bound asylum seekers back to Indonesia. He introduced the policy after taking office in September.

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