Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Downer says anti-terror strikes from Jakarta acceptable

ODD SCENARIO The foreign minister said that preemptive strikes by Indonesia on terrorists in Australia could be justified in certain circumstances


Indonesia would be entitled to launch a pre-emptive strike against terrorists in Australia threatening the country, if Canberra refused to take action against them, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.

His comments came amid a political dispute over the wisdom of Prime Minister John Howard's dictum that pre-emptive strikes against terrorist bases abroad were permissible as a last resort in the protection of Australia.

The opposition Labor Party, which hopes to deny Howard's conservative coalition a fourth term at a general election next month, has ruled out approving pre-emptive strikes.

Downer, speaking on local radio, said he would expect another country to take pre-emptive action if terrorists in Australia represented a direct threat.

"If the Indonesians rang us up and said, `there's a terrorist group in the Kimberleys who are planning to launch an attack on Kupang,' and we said, `well, we don't really care, that's your problem, pal, and we're not going to do anything about it,' and they sent an F-16 over and bombed the terrorist group, you could understand that," Downer said.

Labor leader Mark Latham, described Downer's comments as "horrifying" and evidence he was unfit for the job.

"He's made a lot of errors in recent times as foreign minister, I just don't think he's fit for the job," Latham said. "I find it horrifying that the foreign minister would be publicly talking about circumstances where it is understandable, if another country attacked Australia."

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