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Subject: AFP: ABRI chief denies as "lies" report on East Timor troops
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 21:57:31 GMT

Received from Joyo

Indonesian army chief denies as "lies" report on East Timor troops

JAKARTA, Oct 30 (AFP) - The head of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) on Friday dismissed as "lies" reports that Jakarta had more than 17,000 troops deployed in the troubled territory of East Timor.

"It is not true that the ABRI personnel (in East Timor) reach 17,000. That is a lie that is not supported by facts," General Wiranto, who like many Indonesians carries only one name, told reporters at the military headquarters here.

"Information such as that is misleading and is only engineered by irresponsible parties to disturb the comprehensive and peaceful settlement of the East Timor problem," he said.

Wiranto, however, gave no figures for the troops in East Timor.

Copies of apparently confidential Indonesian military documents circulating among foreign journalists, and given credence by Western embassies, showed there were 17,834 troops in East Timor by the end of July.

The number differed only slightly by the end of August when 17,941 soldiers were registered, despite a much-publicized troop withdrawal of 1,100 combat troops on July 28 and August 8.

The documents also showed the number of soldiers in East Timor had been at 15,912 in November of last year.

"ABRI is in East Timor to maintain security and to create a feeling of safety as well as to help enhance the prosperity of the population by providing guidance," Wiranto said.

"The ABRI troops are territorial troops which have been given training in agriculture and craftmanship," Wiranto added.

The documents said nearly 8,000 troops in East Timor in August were combat troops.

Indonesia sent troops to the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed the territory the following year.

But the UN continues to regard Lisbon as the official administrator of East Timor and its secretary general has sponsored peace talks between Portugal and Indonesia since 1983.

The documents back up statements by East Timorese leaders, including Nobel laureate Carlos Belo and jailed resistance leader Xanana Gusmao disputing claims by Indonesia's new government to have reduced its combat elements in the territory.

The East Timorese resistance have spoken of secret troop landings and movements indicating preparations for a strike against rebels in jungle hidouts in central and eastern East Timor.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

Join us to celebrate TAPOL's 25th anniversary on 20 October 1998. Contact us for ticket details.

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