Subject: Envoy denies US Marines entered W. Timor border

Indonesian Observer September 26, 2000

Envoy denies US Marines entered W. Timor border

JAKARTA (IO) - US Ambassador Robert Gelbard has rejected claims by a senior Indonesian general that US Marines had trespassed into West Timor during a visit to East Timor.

The ambassador yesterday said about 600 US Marine forces were deployed in East Timor along the border for three days for humanitarian tasks and they have since been withdrawn.

"Yes, there were US Marines in East Timor. I am not quite sure with the number, maybe around 600 marines," Gelbard quoted as saying by Antara after a meeting with Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the vice presidential palace.

He flatly dismissed claims by Udayana Regional Military Commander Major General Kiki Syahnakri that US Marines had crossed the border into Indonesian territory.

Gelbard said the marines at the border never went to the West Timor town of Atambua, where three foreign United Nations relief workers were killed on September 6 by pro-Indonesia East Timorese militiamen.

"I think General Kiki Syahnakri only created rumors. He should have concentrated on his duties."

The ambassador said Syahnakri got his facts wrong and should not be fixated by the fact that some US Marines went to East Timor.

Syahnakri recently questioned the presence of 600 US Marines at the border between Indonesia and East Timor. He also accused the marines violating Indonesia's territorial integrity.

"Why should they deploy 600 marines and three warships on the pretext of dropping humanitarian aid and giving assistance to development in East Timor?" he said early last week.

Gelbard recalled the statement made by Syahnakri about the horrific murder of Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes, who was killed either by militiamen or Indonesian soldiers after the August 30 East Timor referendum on independence.

"Mr Syahnakri had said several months ago that the Dutch journalist was not shot. It was wrong because Sander Thoenes was brutally shot. I think General Syahnakri finds it difficult to finish his tasks. Therefore he blames other parties."

Gelbard and Megawati discussed various matters, including the new Indonesian economic team led by Coordinating Minister for Economy Rizal Ramli. The ambassador said he was impressed by the performance of the new team.

He said US companies want to increase their investments in Indonesia, particularly in the sectors of mining, energy and agriculture.

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