Australian PM responds to angry Indonesian leader
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Saturday his response to the Indonesian president’s angry letter following reports of Australian phone tapping of Indonesian leaders was on its way to Jakarta.
Australians are hoping that Abbott’s quickly crafted letter will quell Indonesian anger over National Security Agency fugitive Edward Snowden’s leaked documents that showed Australia bugged the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and eight Indonesian ministers and officials in 2009.
A furious Yudhoyono recalled Indonesia’s ambassador, downgraded relations with Australia and wrote to Abbott demanding an explanation.
Abbott, who has refused to confirm or deny that the bugging took place, told reporters on Saturday he had written the response which “is now in the process of being delivered.”
Abbott declined to say what he had written.
“It would be wrong of me to talk about what I’ve said to the president before the president has actually received it,” he said.
“I just want to stress that as far as I am concerned, one of the fundamental tasks of any Australian government — but certainly one of the fundamental tasks of my government — is to ensure that our relationship with Indonesia goes from strength to strength,” he added.
On Friday, more than 400 hard-line Muslims hurled bottles, tomatoes and eggs at the gate of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to protest the alleged wiretapping.
They burned replicas of the U.S. and Australian flags while chanting for the Australia ambassador to be expelled, South Jakarta Police Chief Col. Wahyu Hadiningrat said. He said nearly 500 policemen were deployed to protect the embassy, which had been closed for two days by demonstrators.
Associated Press writer Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.