10 Mar 2006

Australian diplomat attacks Papua secessionists

11:22 am on 10 March 2006

A report in Australia says the country's ambassador to the United States, Dennis Richardson, has attacked the separatist movement in the Indonesian province of Papua.

The newspaper, The Australian, reports Mr Richardson addressed a US-Indonesia business lunch, and attacked the Papua lobby as being out of touch with democratic Indonesia.

Australia is holding 43 Papuans who arrived by boat in Australia where they claimed asylum on the basis of their assertion they had fled genocide.

Mr Richardson said Papua was part of the sovereign territory of Indonesia and always had been.

He says for the Papua lobby to accept the Indonesia of today and to reinforce the positive developments in Indonesia is to deny them their raison d'etre.

Mr Richardson says he certainly doesn't believe that Australian policy approaches to Indonesia should be, as he put it, held hostage by the issue of Papua.

Indonesia's ambassador to the US responded to Mr Richardson's speech by saying never in the history of the two countries had the relationship been as excellent as it was today.