Anti-Australia demo in Indonesia over spying row

Anti-Australia demo in Indonesia over spying row
Anti-Australia protesters burn Australian flags during a rally in front of the Australian embassy location in Malang, East Java, on November 22, 2013.

JAKARTA - Demonstrators in military-style uniforms protested outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta Tuesday, as the Indonesian president weighed his response to a letter from Prime Minister Tony Abbott aimed at calming a row over spying.

Allegations that Australian spies tried to listen to the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and his ministers in 2009 has sparked an escalating diplomatic crisis.

Jakarta has reacted furiously, ending cooperation on military exercises and in the key area of people-smuggling and recalling its ambassador from Australia.

On Tuesday a crowd from a paramilitary organisation, wearing black and orange outfits, burnt pictures of Abbott outside the mission, the latest angry protest at the heavily fortified compound.

"Australia must apologise publicly and the ambassador must leave this country," read one of the banners carried by some 100 protesters.

"It's not simply about the spying, Australia has intervened in too many Indonesian affairs," shouted one demonstrator through a loudspeaker.

He cited the separatist movement in the eastern Papua region, which has received support from some Australian activists.

Last week, hundreds of demonstrators pelted eggs and rotten tomatoes at the embassy.

Abbott has so far refused to apologise over the scandal, further infuriating Jakarta, and Yudhoyono sent a letter last week to the Australian leader demanding he fully explain the allegations.

Abbot replied at the weekend. The president on Tuesday met with Vice President Boediono, the recalled ambassador, and other ministers at the presidential palace in Jakarta to consider his next step.

There has as yet been no indication of the letter's content. But speaking ahead of the meeting, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha hinted that Jakarta was satisfied.

"The response from Prime Minister Abbott certainly was in accordance with our expectations," he told reporters.

The alleged spying was first revealed by Australian media last week, which based its reports on leaked documents from US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden.

They showed that Australia's electronic intelligence agency tracked Yudhoyono's activity on his mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009, when Labor's Kevin Rudd was prime minister.

At least one phone call was reportedly intercepted.

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