Subject: RT: Some troops said to leave E Timor
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 08:25:57 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some Indonesia troops to leave E.Timor - military 05:52 a.m. Jul 24, 1998 Eastern
JAKARTA, July 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia plans to withdraw next week some of the thousands of troops it has stationed in the troubled territory of East Timor, military officials said on Friday.
``We have been asked to arrange a press tour for reporters to recover the sending home of troops from East Timor, but I don't know how many troops will be sent home or have any further details,'' a military press officer in Jakarta said.
He was unable to confirm rumours that around 1,000 troops, possibly at least one battalion, were being withdrawn, or whether the troops being sent home would later be replaced as part of a rotation.
Indonesia has officially around 5,000 troops, roughly five battalions, in East Timor but foreign military analysts say the the actual number of forces under arms could be up to twice as much if armed local militas, special forces on rotation, riot police and other partial units were counted.
The regional commander said recently there were 12,000 troops and police in the territory, which has a population of 800,000. The police are technically part of the armed forces, and the commander did not give a breakdown.
Jakarta still faces limited armed resistance to its rule by guerrillas in the hills of the former Portuguese colony, which it invaded in December 1975 and annexed the following year. The East Timorese offer significant political opposition, too.
Soon after taking power in May, Indonesian President B.J. Habibie proposed a special status for East Timor in a framework of solving the territory's problems once and for all.
U.N. special envoy Jamsheed Marker said during a recent visit to Indonesia that Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and his Portuguese counterpart Jamie Gama would meet under U.N. auspices in New York on August 2.
Marker said Alatas would be asked to ``flesh out'' the Indonesian proposals.
The withdrawal of troops is seen as a key move to help build confidence in East Timor. Marker said that tension there remained high but that there was a desire for dialogue and a peaceful solution to the problem.
Human rights activists say more than 20 years of Indonesian rule have taken a severe toll on the local Timorese with up to 200,000 people dying, mostly of starvation and disease, in the early years after the invasion.
In 1991, Indonesia recevied severe international condemnation after its troops fired on unarmed demonstrators in Dili, killing at least 50 people by the official count. Human rights and church sources put the death toll at more than 200 civilans.