Indonesia halts Australia drills as protesters call for 'war'

Indonesia halts Australia drills as protesters call for 'war'
Protesters shout slogans and burn a paper with the Australian flag pictured on it during a demonstration in front of Australian embassy in Jakarta on November 21, 2013.

JAKARTA - Indonesia's military halted training with Australia as a decision to suspend cooperation due to spying claims took effect, while angry demonstrators in Jakarta declared Thursday they were "ready for war" with Canberra.

In the Australian capital, the scandal took an embarrassing twist for Prime Minister Tony Abbott when one of his party's strategists described someone reported to be the Indonesian foreign minister as resembling "a 1970s Filipino porn star".

The crisis - triggered by reports that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of the Indonesian president, his wife and ministers - has pushed ties between Jakarta and Canberra to their lowest level since Australia sent troops to restore order in East Timor in 1999.

Jakarta has recalled its ambassador from Canberra and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Wednesday ordered cooperation suspended in several areas, including on people-smuggling, military exercises and sharing intelligence.

Speaking just hours after Yudhoyono made his announcement, military chief Moeldoko said two current exercises with Australia were being halted.

"What's the point of joint training when they don't trust us?" said the head of the armed forces, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

He said a joint exercise in the northern Australian city of Darwin, which had been due to end Sunday, was being halted and six F-16 fighter jets involved in it would return to Indonesia.

A joint training exercise with the Indonesian army's special forces known as Kopassus, in Lembang in West Java province, was also being suspended, he said.

The anger over the alleged spying spilled over to the public in Jakarta, where demonstrators wearing military-style uniforms protested outside the Australian embassy, pumping their fists in the air and waving the Indonesian flag.

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