Aus PM discussed Indonesia swoop

SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Tuesday revealed he discussed people-smuggling with Indonesia's president the same weekend as Indonesia swooped on a boat carrying hundreds of asylum-seekers.

Rudd said he had spoken to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about illegal immigration but did not confirm a report that he tipped off the Indonesians about the boat.

"Of course we talked about our continued cooperation on people-smuggling -- as we've discussed in the past and as I'll continue to discuss with him in the future," he told public broadcaster ABC.

"The Australian government makes no apology whatsoever for deploying the most hardline measures necessary to deal with the problems of illegal immigration into Australia. No apology whatsoever."

Indonesian officials said they picked up the wooden boat carrying 260 Sri Lankan men, women and children in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra early Sunday.

The West Australian newspaper reported that Rudd had called Yudhoyono on Saturday with intelligence that the vessel was heading for Australian waters.

Indonesia is a popular staging-point for people-smugglers to bring asylum-seekers to Australia by sea, and officials have become increasingly worried about rising numbers because of conflicts around the world.

About 1,650 boatpeople have arrived in Australia since January and 1,116 of them plus 19 crew are being held at the main immigration detention centre at Christmas Island, an official told AFP. The centre has capacity for 1,200 people.

"Working with our friends in the region, it's important to deal with this because of the huge push factors coming from political disturbances in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and the wider Middle East," Rudd said.

"This is a problem for all countries in the region -- that's why we work closely with our friends in Jakarta."

In April, Yudhoyono said that his country would work closely with Australia to tackle the problem of unwanted arrivals.