Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Obama cancellation accepted by Australia and Indonesia

File image of Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from 10 March 2010
Both the Indonesian and Australian leaders had been expecting Mr Obama

Indonesian and Australian officials have expressed understanding after US President Barack Obama cancelled a much-anticipated visit to the region.

Both countries and Guam had been due to host the US leader next week.

But Mr Obama postponed the visit to focus on the healthcare reform vote in Washington, and is now planning to come in June instead.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that the government was "not disappointed".

"Even though we've been prepared for the visit, (the delay is) not the end of the world," he said.

Indonesia's presidential spokesman, Dino Djalal, said that when the US president called his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to discuss postponing the trip, it was in fact Mr Yudhoyono who suggested that the visit should take place later in the year.

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he understood the problems Mr Obama was facing.

"We had a conversation on the phone this morning - he'd like to have a more relaxed visit than the 24-hour whip in, whip out that the last one had come down to."

Push for influence

The US president had been scheduled to address the Australian parliament, but most attention had been focused on the Indonesian leg of the trip.

President Barack Obama: "The schedule was getting tighter"

It was being hailed by both sides as a momentous opportunity to cement their relationship on security, trade and military issues.

It was also, reports the BBC's Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta, being seen as a crucial push for influence in the region by the United States to counteract the growing reach of China.

Indonesia is South East Asia's largest economy and a growing market - one that American firms are keen to get into.

There were hopes that significant initiatives on trade and investment would have been signed during the American president's visit to the country he lived in as a child.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Indonesia in April, a trip that is likely to see discussions on further co-operation on trade.

China signed a free trade agreement with the Asean bloc which came into effect earlier this year, and is increasingly becoming a key economic partner for many of the nations in Asia.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Obama legacy at stake as health vote looms - 42 hrs ago Obama delays Asia trip - 45 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Obama postpones Asia-Pacific tour - 47 hrs ago
France24 USA: Obama postpones Asia-Pacific trip to push healthcare bill - 51 hrs ago
AFP via Yahoo! Obama drops Indonesia, Australia trip over health care - 52 hrs ago

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