Cohen warns Indonesia could face suspension of aid Jakarta
Cohen warns Indonesia could face suspension of aid
U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen warned Indonesia on Monday that it could face economic sanctions if it did not begin disarming pro-Jakarta militias terrorizing West Timor within three weeks.
While stopping short of suggesting a U.N. economic embargo, Cohen said Indonesia's relationship with the international community and lending institutions could be in jeopardy if it did not move quickly to stop the militias.
"What takes place in the next few weeks will determine what the response will be," he told a press conference following talks with President Abdurrahman Wahid and other senior government and military officials.
"You certainly could have some serious financial implications," Cohen said, adding that he had delivered a strong message to Wahid from U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Indonesia is hugely dependent on international assistance, including a 43 billion dollar rescue package from the International Monetary Fund. That package has already been frozen twice, once after militiamen and Indonesian soldiers laid waste to East Timor one year ago following its independence ballot.
Since then, the militias have been operating on Indonesia's side of the divided island, harassing aid workers trying to repatriate some 120,000 East Timorese refugees still stuck in West Timor. They have also stepped up cross-border guerrilla attacks into U.N.-controlled East Timor.
On September 6, rampaging militiamen brutally murdered three foreign aid workers, including a U.S. national, during an attack on the offices of the U.N. refugee agency in Atambua, a West Timor border town.
The U.N. evacuated its staff from West Timor, and the Security Council passed an emergency resolution demanding Indonesia disarm and disband the militias.
The Jakarta government has refused to take the blame for the killings, and is resisting the arrival of a Security Council mission in Jakarta to ensure Indonesia complies with the resolution.
Senior cabinet ministers have even claimed there were no militias in West Timor because they had been disarmed last year, and that the attack on the U.N. offices was conducted by Australian intelligence agents.
Cohen called Indonesia's response to the murders "disappointing," and dismissed other claims by government officials as "ficticious rumours."
"They cannot deny (the militias exist)," he said. "They are armed."
Indonesian Defence Minister Mohammad Mahfud, who met Cohen Monday morning, told reporters that the government was preparing to take steps to resolve the crisis - a claim Indonesia has made for the past year.
"Indonesia started disarming the militias in 1999, but Indonesia is asking that the international community be realistic," Mahfud said."
Cohen said Wahid gave him assurances that his government planned to move quickly to disarm the militias and enable the 120,000 refugees to freely decide whether to return to East Timor or remain in Indonesia.
The defence secretary said he warned Indonesia to move quickly.
"Time is of the essence," he said. "There cannot be delays or deferrals."
The refugees are reportedly running short on food and other services such as health care and sanitation in the camps.
Cohen did not answer when asked what specific steps Indonesia promised to take to disarm the militias, which continue to roam Atambua freely despite the presence of thousands of Indonesian soldiers and police.
Police said they would take a "persuasive approach" to coax the militias to resettle in other areas, rather than disarming them by force.
This has led analysts in Jakarta to speculate that Wahid has lost control of his security forces in West Timor, which are unwilling to disarm militiamen they armed and trained last year. There are also allegations the military is continuing to assist the militias.
There is a growing perception that Indonesia's army is once again bucking civilian supremacy. Government officials have speculated rogue military units supporting former president Suharto were behind a series of recent bombings in Jakarta to destabilize Wahid's government and thwart investigations into past human rights abuses. dpa jc sh jh
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/