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Indonesia moves to end cooperation over phone tapping

Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Vicki Wood

UPDATED: INDONESIA has moved to suspend its cooperative relationship with Australia, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa warning "almost irreparable damage" has been caused by a phone tapping scandal.

Mr Natalegawa spoke to the BBC on Wednesday, amid a widening diplomatic scandal after reports Australian intelligence agencies had tapped Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's phone.

But Prime Minister Tony Abbott has remained steadfast that he would not apologise for the monitoring, despite expressing regret at "damage that media reports have done" in parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Natalegawa said due to the lack of an explanation or apology, Indonesia had already begun downgrading the relationship.

He warned that Australia "must take concrete steps and (give) strong signals of its wish to repair the almost irreparable damage they are causing".

Mr Natalegawa said Australian intelligence officers had conducted activities that were illegal in Indonesia, which may also contravene international laws.

During Question Time in Canberra, Mr Abbott said he said he "noted" admissions from Australian officials in similar situations in the past.

But "notwithstanding the difficulties of these days" Mr Abbott offered no apology, instead saying he was focussed on maintaining the relationship.

It comes after revelations earlier this week that Australian intelligence agencies under the previous government had monitored Mr Yudhoyono's phone and those of his wife and closest political advisers.

Mr Abbott on Tuesday said in parliament he did not intend to apologise for such actions, after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called on him to do so.

Mr Shorten pressed the issue again on Wednesday calling for an apology from the Prime Minister.

EARLIER: THE Prime Minister has remained steadfast he will not apologise for the reported monitoring of senior Indonesian political officials' phones, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Facing questions in parliament on Wednesday about how he would deal with the evolving diplomatic crisis, Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to apologise for the reported monitoring.

During Question Time, Mr Abbott said while he regretted the "damage that media reports have done" to Mr Yudhoyono, he did not back down on the issue.

While he said he "noted" admissions from Australian officials in similar situations in the past, Mr Abbott said "notwithstanding the difficulties of these days" he was focussed on doing to maintain the relationship.

It comes after revelations earlier this week that Australian intelligence agencies under the previous government had monitored Mr Yudhoyono's phone and those of his wife and closest political advisers.

Mr Abbott on Tuesday said in parliament he did not intend to apologise for such actions, after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called on him to do so.

Mr Shorten pressed the issue again during Question Time on Wednesday, with the first question from the Opposition calling for an apology.

However, Labor's appeal for an apology and explanation for intelligence monitoring did not question what the previous government's role in the monitoring may have been.

Queensland MP Bob Katter also pressed the issues, saying the tension over the live cattle export ban two years ago remained, and was being exacerbated by the phone tapping issues.

Joining a growing political chorus calling for an apology, Mr Katter said Australians would be outraged and would demand an explanation if the situation was reversed.

Topics:  indonesia mobile phones spying susilo bambang yudhoyono tony abbott



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