Indonesia summons Australian ambassador over U.S.-led spying claims

Reuters

JAKARTA/PERTH, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Indonesia summonsedAustralia's ambassador on Friday to explain media reports hisembassy in Jakarta was used to spy on Southeast Asia's biggestcountry as part of a U.S.-led global spying network.

Indonesia this week called in the chief U.S. diplomat inJakarta over similar allegations, while China on Thursdaydemanded an explanation from the United States after the SydneyMorning Herald newspaper reported Australian embassies acrossAsia were part of the U.S. spying operation.

News of Australia's role in a U.S.-led surveillance networkcould damage relations with Indonesia, Australia's nearest Asianneighbour and a key strategic ally.

"Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has demandedan explanation from the Australian ambassador in Jakarta aboutthe existence and use of surveillance facilities in theAustralian embassy here," Indonesia's foreign ministry said in astatement.

"The reported activities absolutely do not reflect thespirit of a close and friendly relationship between the twoneighbours and are considered unacceptable by the government ofIndonesia."

The Herald said its reports were based on U.S. whistleblowerEdward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer.

Snowden leaks to other media have detailed vast intelligencecollection by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on allies,including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting protestsand a U.S. review of intelligence gathering.

Natalegawa, in Australia for a meeting with his counterpartJulie Bishop and other regional foreign ministers, said thereports of spying by Australia and the United States were likelyto be raised "in a more concerted way" by other countries.

"The fact that certain countries may have certain capacitiesto gather information in the way that they have, that's onething, but whether you would want to put that into effect andtherefore potentially damage the kind of trust and confidencethat have been nurtured and developed over many decades andyears is something that we may want to ponder," he toldreporters in Perth in western Australia.

"I think we have been able to communicate to ForeignMinister Bishop about our concern."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did notimmediately reply to requests for comment. In an earlierresponse to the surveillance allegations, a spokeswoman said:"It is the long-standing practice of Australian governments notto comment on intelligence matters."

The Australian ambassador is scheduled to meet Indonesianofficials in Jakarta on Friday over the matter, a foreignministry spokesperson confirmed.

Bilateral relations were already shaky after Australia's newconservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, in September proposedturning back boats of asylum-seekers coming through Indonesia.

Abbott made his first official trip overseas to Jakarta lastmonth where he sought to played down tensions over the asylumseekers issue and called instead on both countries to focus onboosting bilateral trade.

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