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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Powder sent to Downer 'harmless'
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer speaks in Jakarta, Indonesia
Mr Downer called the package 'intimidation'
A suspicious powder sent to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Friday has been found to be harmless.

The powder was discovered in a package addressed to Mr Downer at parliament.

The incident came two days after a package containing bacteria, later also tested as probably harmless, was found at the Indonesian embassy in Canberra.

Australian authorities linked that package with public anger at the jailing of a 27-year-old Australian woman for smuggling drugs into Bali.

The case of Schapelle Corby, who was given a 20-year sentence, generated huge public sympathy in Australia, with many people convinced of her innocence.

'Deplorable'

Friday's alert forced the temporary closure of parliament's loading dock, where the package was opened.

It was found to contain white powder in a plastic bag. Police said tests on the substance had shown it did not contain any dangerous material.

Police said they were investigating if and how the two incidents were linked.

Mr Downer said in a statement: "As I have said this week in relation to the incident involving the Indonesian embassy, this type of intimidation is deplorable."

The embassy was allowed to reopen on Friday, and none of the 46 staff placed in isolation had shown any signs of illness.

The powder found at the embassy contained a bacteria belonging to the same family as anthrax, but was later tested to be almost certainly harmless.

Australian and Indonesian leaders have been trying to calm public concerns over the embassy scare, and the Corby verdict.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was quick to apologise to Indonesia for the embassy incident, has been trying to improve Australia's often-troubled relations with its northern neighbour.

"As things settle down, I wouldn't expect there will be long-term damage, but it is a difficult relationship," he told a Melbourne radio station on Friday.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on Australians to support his country's intolerance of drugs.

"I do hope this thing will be well managed by the developing sense of co-operation between Indonesia and Australia," he said, during a visit to Japan.




SEE ALSO:
Australian bacteria alert fades
02 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian guilty on drugs charge
27 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Schapelle Corby verdict
27 May 05 |  In Pictures
Australia's Howard reaches out to Asia
08 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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