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Subject: Troika And Military Withdrawal
Date: Thu, 02 Jul 98 18:55:07

CAFOD urges EU to insist on troop withdrawal from East Timor

CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency, has welcomed a decision by the European Union to send a Troika of Ambassadors to Dili this weekend (June 27 to 30) and is urging the delegation to make the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor the top priority of the visit.

Describing the current political atmosphere in East Timor as a Dili Spring , CAFOD director Julian Filochowski said that for real progress to continue the Troika must establish international mechanisms to verify the withdrawal of troops promised by Indonesian President Dr Jusuf Habibie.

In a letter to Derek Fatchet, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, Mr Filochowski said: CAFOD commends HMG for going through with its planned visit to East Timor at a time when the political atmosphere in East Timor amounts to a Dili Spring. The Troika however must be aware of attempts by the local Indonesian authorities to hijack their visit and should not allow any orchestration of their visit to prevent them from listening to real public opinion in the occupied territory.

On June 24 President Habibie received a statement from the Catholic Bishops of East Timor calling on the Indonesian government to:

Guarantee the right to and freedom of movement and settlement of East Timorese people within the territory of East Timor. Acknowledge and guarantee the right to freedom of expression. Reduce the military presence. Allow free access too East Timor for all international organisations, including Amnesty International and the UN Commission on Human Rights. Permit exiles from East Timor to return freely. Allow the teaching of the Tetum and Portuguese languages in schools and universities.

Steve Alston, CAFOD s project officer who has just returned from East Timor said he was very encouraged that President Habibie had listened to the Bishops requests, but warned the situation was still fragile.

The situation in East Timor is very fragile. In recent weeks since the fall of Suharto, arrests, detentions and killings of Timorese youth have continued. Despite the present optimistic political atmosphere there are still clear efforts being made to reimpose military censorship and to suppress free debate.

A military crackdown is a very real possibility. These new moves toward dialogue need support and reinforcement from the international community if they are to lead to lasting understanding and agreement.

Ends MMcC 26.6.98

For further information contact Mary McCollum tel:0171 733 7900 or 0171 704 1315 (out of hours)

Steve Alston Asia - International Division or
Tel 44 (0)171 733 7900 FAX 44 (0)171 274 9630

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