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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 12:14 GMT
Australia refuses to lift Bali warning
Bali bomb blast scene
The Bali attack killed 88 Australians
Australia has refused to lower the scale of its travel warning for Indonesia, four months after the bombings on the island of Bali which killed at least 194 people.

In a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Tuesday, Indonesian Tourism Minister I Gede Ardika asked for the travel advisory to be toned down, insisting that security had improved in the wake of the attacks.

The twin bombings in Bali's famed nightclub area, on 12 October 2002, killed 88 Australian nationals.

Mukhlas (AP photo)
Indonesia has arrested several key suspects
The Australian Government currently advises its citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Indonesia, including Bali, because of the risk of terrorism.

It says threats against Australians in the region "remain high".

But Mr Ardika told Mr Downer that security in Bali had been substantially strengthened since last October.

"The situation and condition in Bali is already getting much, much better," Mr Ardika told Radio Australia after the meeting.

The bomb attacks have been blamed on Muslim militants, and the Indonesian police have already arrested several key suspects.

But a spokesman for Mr Downer said Australia would not adjust its travel advisories on the basis of lobbying efforts.

"I'm afraid the primary consideration always is the safety of Australians," he said.

Vital tourist industry

Before October's bomb blasts, Bali was one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations.

"Tourism for Indonesia is the number one currency exchange earner after oil and gas, and in Bali tourism is playing a significant role. More than 80% of people in Bali are linked to tourism activities," said Mr Ardika.

Before Tuesday's meeting, Mr Ardika said it was vital that Australians begin visiting Indonesia again, to promote understanding and tolerance between the two neighbours.

"I fully understand that the advisory is an obligation of the government," he said.

"But if the people don't visit each another any more... they will not understand the real situation that is happening today, and it could create misunderstandings," Mr Ardika told the BBC World Today programme.


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10 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
14 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
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