Indonesian, Australia leaders trade jabs over spying allegations

Indonesian, Australia leaders trade jabs over spying allegations

JAKARTA - The leaders of Indonesia and Australia traded punches on Tuesday in a row over alleged spying by Canberra, with both sides refusing to back down in a growing rift between the two often uneasy neighbours.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono used Twitter, following the recall of Indonesia's ambassador to Australia the previous day, to accuse Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott of dismissing his country's concerns.

Abbott, in office since September, rejected calls for an explanation, describing surveillance by Australian governments as "reasonable intelligence operations".

The latest flare-up followed Australian media reports, quoting documents leaked by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that Australian spy agencies had tried to tap the mobile phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and senior officials.

Reports last month said Australia's Jakarta embassy had been part of a US-led surveillance network to spy on Indonesia.

"I ... regret the statement of Australian Prime Minister that belittled this tapping matter on Indonesia, without any remorse," he wrote. He did not say to which statement by Abbott he was referring.

"These US & Australian actions have certainly damaged the strategic partnerships with Indonesia, as fellow democracies,"Yudhoyono tweeted.

Indonesia, he wrote, "demands an official response, one that can be understood by the public".

DIFFERENCES OVER ASYLUM SEEKERS

Abbott was unrepentant.

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