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Xmas alert: come home Aussies told JAKARTA - Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today reminded Australians to defer travel to Indonesia as its president urged nations to lift warnings that deter tourists and hurt the economy. The latest travel update says the threat of terrorist attacks still exists in Indonesia and warns that Christmas and New Year are times of special concern.
Terrorists were blamed for a series of Christmas period bomb blasts in churches two years ago that killed 18 people and injured more than 100. Mr Downer said the travel advice had been reissued on Friday to remind people in Indonesia that Christmas might be more dangerous this year.
"The travel advisory has been reissued because of the onset of Christmas. People have to be particularly careful over the Christmas and New Year period in Indonesia," he told reporters in Adelaide. "There is the possibility ... there could be attacks on churches around Christmas time and people should be reminded to be very careful to keep away from bars, clubs, other types of institutions where Westerners tend to congregate."
Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, who wants an inquiry into the travel advisory system in the wake of the Bali bombings, said the warnings were not getting through to travellers. His office called 20 travel agents on Friday asking about flights to Jakarta and was warned just four times of adverse travel advisories for Indonesia.
"On 21 October I wrote to Mr Downer and recommended that he require the Australian travel industry ... to provide those making bookings with a short, two-sentence summary of a travel advisory if the department ... had produced an adverse security threat analysis on that country," Mr Rudd said in a statement. Mr Downer said the government would next year introduce initiatives to make travel advisories to more people as they were leaving the country.
But he rejected Mr Rudd's suggestion. "Introducing some sort of draconian law forcing travel agents to do things - that's probably a bit over the top I suspect," he said. Meanwhile, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri called on governments to lift consular advice warnings against travel to Indonesia. The United States, Britain, many countries in the European Union as well as Australia have warned against travel to Indonesia since the Bali bombings.
The US and Britain also renewed their warnings after Australia did late last week. But Mrs Megawati said Indonesia was not the sole target of terrorists and people should not be warned off just because her country had been hit in the past. "I say everywhere to friendly nations and to foreigners living in Indonesia that terrorism can occur anywhere, at any time and can be carried out by anyone," she was quoted as saying by Kompas newspaper.
"So, if it occurs in Indonesia, don't put a travel ban on Indonesia." The travel warnings have also raised hackles in other South East Asian nations which have economies heavily dependant on tourism.



Posted in Tourism @ 23 December 2002 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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