Protests erupt in Jakarta over spy scandal

Last updated 19:30 22/11/2013
Tony Abbott and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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The Australian embassy in Jakarta is  being pelted with eggs by  protesters as Prime Minister Tony Abbott responds to calls for an apology from Indonesia over the  phone-tapping scandal.

More than 1600 police have been deployed near the Australian and US embassies plus several other potential targets in the capital  head of members of the hardline group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), attending rallies after Friday prayers.

Already protesters in front of the Australian embassy have burnt  photos of Abbott and an Australian flag. The protesters, from the Kommando Perjuan Merah Putih (Red and  White Fighter Commandos) have also for a second day called for war  with Australia and demanded the Australian ambassador, Greg  Moriarty, be expelled from Indonesia.

''Our nation has been insulted by Australia. Let's attack them,''  one of the group shouted outside the embassy on Friday afternoon.

The FPI has previously rallied in support of convicted terrorist  and suspected Bali bombing mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir.

Abbott, who has promised a swift and courteous response to  President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's call for apology, met with the  national security committee of cabinet on Thursday night and was  declining to comment on Friday.

Indonesians are angry over reports Australia tapped their  president's phone, and that of his wife, in 2009 and have demanded  Mr Abbott apologise and explain how and why it occurred.

Indonesia's former intelligence chief said the diplomatic row  could be resolved with an apology.

''Just apologise and ... forgive and forget,'' Abdullah Mahmud  Hendropriyono told the ABC on Friday.

Hendropriyono admitted in a 2004 television interview that  Jakarta had spied on Australia.

Since this row began, Indonesia has halted co-operation on  tackling people smuggling and the sharing of intelligence.

Military exercises scheduled to take place in Darwin have also been put on  hold.

Gita Wirjawan, Indonesia's trade minister, has warned his  country may suspend talks on a comprehensive economic partnership  agreement with Australia.

A senior ranking source from the Indonesian National Police  anti-people smuggling taskforce said the asylum-seeker issue remained highly sensitive.''It's too sensitive to talk about,'' he told AAP.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on the  state of border protection activities with Indonesia but said Australia's Operation Sovereign Borders was continuing.

''(It) is designed to ensure the operation stands or falls on no  single measure,'' he said.

''We have the ability to work through our chain of measures to  ensure that whatever circumstances we face ... we are able to adapt  and ensure the people smugglers will be frustrated.''

The issues between Abbott and President Yudhoyono were being  addressed by them personally and he would not comment further.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard said US President Barack Obama's approach to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a similar  bugging scandal set the benchmark for a diplomatic response.

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"If he (Obama) had been aware he wouldn't have authorised it,  and he could certainly say for the future that it wouldn't happen again,'' she told CNN.

''I think that that's an appropriate response from Australia to  Indonesia at this very difficult time."

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer said Abbott should ''extend a friendly hand to President Yudhoyono'', but not confirm  the bugging occurred or say sorry.

''If Tony Abbott were to say 'gee I'm sorry about that', that  would reveal that in fact, the allegation was true,'' he told Sky  News

- AAP

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