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Indonesians protest as spy row goes on

RAW VISION: Indonesians demonstrate outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta as spying row simmers on.

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Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan has confirmed that the dispute with Australia over spying allegations has accelerated his country’s desire to source beef from other countries.

Mr Gita also said all communications between the two countries over broader bilateral trade issues had ceased. For the moment, Australian and Indonesian officials are only talking to each other in multilateral forums such as the World Trade Organisation.

Australia, which is free of foot and mouth disease, has been almost the exclusive supplier of beef to the Indonesian market. The live cattle trade alone is worth $ 174 million.

But last week Mr Gita asked the parliament to pass laws allowing for beef to be imported from India and Brazil despite the danger of the deadly disease.

The minister confirmed he had made the request because of the sense of betrayal over Australia’s eavesdropping of the private conversations of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, Ani, in 2009. ”I think you can attribute some of that or a lot of it to the unfortunate incident,” he said.

The comments come as Dr Yudhoyono called a “limited cabinet” meeting on Tuesday afternoon, to which his foreign affairs adviser, Teuku Faizasyah was invited. However, key ministers will not be there, and there is no guarantee the letter sent by Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the spying row will be discussed.

Mr Gita is the first Indonesian minister to comment on the row since last week.

Temporary boycotts against Australian interests, including police action against people smugglers and co-operation on cyber crime, remain in place.