Indonesia 'downgrading' Australia ties amid spying row

Indonesia 'downgrading' Australia ties amid spying row

JAKARTA - Indonesia is "downgrading" ties with Canberra over allegations that Australian spy agencies tried to tap the phones of the president and his inner circle, the foreign minister has said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had already announced Indonesia would review its cooperation with Australia over the scandal and late Tuesday Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa went further, telling reporters: "We are downgrading Australia's relations with us.

"Like taps, we are closing off areas of cooperation one by one."

"We will review Australia-Indonesia relations generally... to make sure that it is not business as usual, not like it used to be," he added.

He declined to go into detail but a foreign ministry source said one step could be cutting the number of Indonesian diplomatic personnel in Canberra and asking Australia to do the same in Jakarta.

Indonesia and Australia have traditionally been close strategic and trading partners, cooperating in areas including on anti-terrorism initiatives and on the sensitive issue of asylum-seekers.

Natalegawa's comments came as Indonesia's ambassador to Australia was later Wednesday due to meet with Yudhoyono in Jakarta after being recalled this week over the worst crisis in relations between the neighbours in years.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which broke the spying story, also said Yudhoyono met Tuesday night with at least three government ministers who are key to Australia's interests.

Documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden to Australian media showed that Australian spies targeted the phones of the president, his wife and ministers.

Indonesia has reacted angrily but Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has so far refused to apologise - only further infuriating Jakarta which has demanded Canberra say sorry or offer an explanation.

Yudhoyono on Tuesday issued a series of furious tweets about the spying allegations, saying they had damaged relations between Australia and Indonesia and "deploring" what he said was a lack of remorse on the part of Abbott.

The leaked documents 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.

The list of tracking targets also included Yudhoyono's wife Ani, Vice President Boediono - who was in Australia last week - former vice president Jusuf Kalla, the foreign affairs spokesman, the security minister and the information minister, the reports said.

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