Subject: RT: US Wants More Indonesia Troops Out of E.Timor
Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 17:07:49 +0100 (BST)
FOCUS-US wants more Indonesia troops out of Timor 03:45 a.m. Aug 01, 1998 Eastern
JAKARTA, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The United States wants to see more Indonesian soldiers leave troubled East Timor, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen in Jakarta, Alatas said he had assured Cohen the troop withdrawal -- which started last week with the departure of 400 combat soldiers -- would continue.
``He hopes the (withdrawal) will go on. I've confirmed it will go on. He also hopes there will be progress on talks in New York,'' he said.
Alatas said he briefed Cohen on his departure to New York to attend a U.N.-brokered meeting on August 4-5 with Portugal's Foreign Minister Jaime Gama to discuss the future of East Timor.
Indonesia has begun pulling some troops out of the territory of 800,000 people, which it overran in 1975 after colonial power Portugal withdrew, and annexed the next year. Indonesia's rule in East Timor is not recognised by the United Nations.
The 400 combat soldiers that left East Timor last Tuesday were part of 1,000 to be withdrawn.
Cohen, who arrived in Jakarta from Australia late on Friday night, was to give a news conference at about 0730 GMT. He met with President B.J. Habibie before talking with Alatas.
Cohen was the first U.S. cabinet member to visit Indonesia since Habibie replaced long-serving former president Suharto last May amid economic turmoil, riots and rising demands for political reforms.
He was expected to press the Indonesians to push ahead with investigations into the kidnappings of political activists blamed on the military earlier this year and into the shootings of students that triggered the May riots that helped bring down Suharto.
Alatas also said that during the talks in New York, Indonesia would suggest giving a wide degree of autonomy to East Timor.
``We will give our suggestion that in order to reach a final solution to the East Timor problem, we are willing to grant a status of special province with a wide degree of autonomy,'' he said.
``The autonomy will be the final solution,'' he added.
Alatas said details of the autonomy would be discussed with Portugal during the talks.
``From there, we can draw a conclusion that this is not merely a unilateral autonomy, but a very wide autonomy which is in accordance with the international model.''
``We believe this kind of solution is more practical, realistic and peaceful than organising a referendum,'' he said.
Alatas said a referendum would only spark old conflicts among the East Timorese, and this could lead to civil war.
Portugal said on Friday it expected Indonesia to flesh out its ideas on East Timor at the New York meeting, but added there could be no surrendering of the right of the territory's people to decide their future.