Subject: AFP: Australia says ETimor peace process in jeopardy
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 11:11:15 +1200
From: East Timor International Support Center <firstname.lastname@example.org> Organization: ETISC
Australia says East Timor peace process in jeopardy
SYDNEY, Oct 30 (AFP) - The East Timor reconciliation process could be under threat, Australia warned Friday after reports indicated a planned withdrawal of combat troops in the contested territory had not gone ahead.
Confidential Indonesian army documents released to journalists in an embarrassing leak reveal that nearly 8,000 troops are still stationed in East Timor, despite Indonesia's claims to have started withdrawals.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said the Australian government would be disappointed if the reports were true, but said it was a matter for the Indonesian government to address.
"We've argued for two and a half years in government that an important component of confidence building in East Timor is to reduce numbers of troops," Downer told national radio.
"We very strongly urge the Indonesian government to reduce the numbers."
The foreign minister warned that the peace and reconciliation process was at a very delicate stage.
"Our concern would be that if these reports were accurate it won't help that reconciliation process," he said.
More than 100 pages of highly detailed data on armed forces operations in East Timor were circulated to foreign journalists and governments Thursday, The Australian newspaper said.
"Western diplomats who have reviewed the documents say they have no doubt the information is accurate," the report said.
The documents also confirmed the continued presence of units from the army's elite special forces, Kopassus, in additional to the 8,000 combat troops present in August -- uncharged from a month earlier despite claims cuts had occurred.
After a much-publicised withdrawal of about 1,000 troops from Dili Indonesia had said no combat forces were left in the territory.
In an interview with The Australian last week, Foreign Minister Ali Alatar said the only forces remaining in East Timor were several territorial battalions, comprising 750 to 1,000 troops each.
Asked if combat troops remained, he said: "As far as I know, not any more."
The anomaly threatens progress towards peace in East Timor which Indonesia invaded and annexed in a move never recognised by the United Nations. President B.J. Habibie has offered to give wide-ranging autonomy to the troubled province.