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Subject: AFP:'Too soon to withdraw troops,' says commander
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 1998 07:50:07 +0100 (BST)

AFP, 1 July 1998 Extracts only

[A slap in the face for Habibie, also a rejection of Belo's demand for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops and their replacement by UN troops.]

Indonesia's military commander in East Timor (sic: the man they are quoting is the new commander of the Udayana military command in Bali, which oversees East Timor) said Wednesday it was too soon to consider a troop withdrawal from the former Portuguese colony, Antara reported.

'East Timorese will need the military not for combat but to help them develop the province and improve their welfare,' Major General Adam Damiri was quoted as saying.

His comments came a week after Indonesia's president Habibie pledged a gradual withdrawal of the estimate 15,000 - 20,000 troops from East Timor.

They also came a day after a European Union delegation was forced to cut short a visit to East Timor because of concerns that their trip had sparked an escalation of violence, with two East Timorese killed by Indonesian troops.

The commander who was appointed last month after his predecessor was killed in a helicopter crash, also expressed worries about demands for a referendum on self-determination. 'We are concerned that a referendum would reopen old wounds. We do no want to see clashes among the East Timorese people,' he said.

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TAPOL, Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Defending the rights of the victims of Indonesian oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh.