Subject: Timor violence must end - U.S. defence secretary

Timor violence must end - U.S. defence secretary

By Charles Aldinger

MANILA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen said on Friday that violence in Indonesia's West Timor must be stemmed, and the government should hold the military accountable for last year's ravaging of East Timor.

Cohen, who arrived in the Philippines at the start of a six-nation Asia-Pacific trip, will meet in Jakarta on Monday with President Abdurrahman Wahid and other top Indonesian government and military leaders.

The secretary told reporters travelling with him from Washington that Indonesia risks rising international condemnation and continued military isolation from the United States unless something is done about West Timor, where pro-Indonesian militias backed by military factions this month murdered three U.N. aid workers.

``That is going to be an important visit -- to remind the president and especially the military -- that they need to take strong action to curb the militias in West Timor,'' Cohen said in an interview in his aircraft.

``The situation that has been unfolding in recent days and months is unacceptable,'' he said of the deadly attacks, which have prompted the withdrawal of U.N. workers and threatened tens of thousands of refugees from East Timor with possible starvation.

``The international community is looking with a very critical eye upon whether President Wahid is going to take the kind of action that is necessary to have accountability on the part of the TNI (Indonesian military) for abuses in East Timor'' following death and destruction in the wake of last year's pro-independence vote there, Cohen added.

U.S. officials noted the United States, under direction from an angry U.S. Congress, suspended military-to-military ties with Indonesia last September because of violence in East Timor and had no current plant to resume such relations.

The officials have made clear the Pentagon would prefer to resume close military ties with predominately Muslim Indonesia, one of the world's most heavily populated countries.

But despite statements from Wahid, Jakarta has done little to end the violence.

And while a number of military officials have been listed by the government as possible suspects in connection with the East Timor devastation, no formal charges have been brought.

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