Subject: Indon serious about disarming W.Timor militias: defense minister

Indonesia serious about disarming W.Timor militias: defense minister

JAKARTA, Sept 26 (AFP) - Indonesia is serious about disarming militias in West Timor, and will arrest those who fail to surrender their firearms by the Wednesday deadline, the defense minister said Tuesday.

"On the Atambua matter, we are giving them until tomorrow (September 27) to surrender weapons, after that there will be sweeps and arrests," Defence Minister Mahfud Mahmudin told journalists after a meeting on political and security affairs.

"This is serious," Mahfud added.

Indonesian authorities launched a voluntary weapons surrender effort on Friday after the UN Security Council issued a resolution in the wake of the miltia murders of three unarmed UN relief workers in Atambua, a border town in West Timor.

The three, staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were murdered on September 6. The UN resolution demanded the Indonesian government immediately disarm and disband the militias.

A top UN official in East Timor on Monday described the Indonesian army attempts to disarm the militias as "pathetic."

Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), said he was not surprised by the ineffectiveness of what the army has called "the persuasive phase" of its efforts.

"I personally never took the persuasive phase seriously," he said.

"I do not believe that the militia will voluntarily surrender their weapons, and if they do they would probably surrender the old ones and keep the modern ones."

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Vieira de Mello was speaking in Dili, the capital of East Timor, before leaving for New York, where he is to brief the UN Security Council on Friday.

The military has said the voluntary disarmament process will be followed by forcible seizures of any remaining weapons.

Pro-Indonesian militias, backed by soldiers, launched a week of wanton terror, killings and destruction in East Timor in September in the wake of the pro-independence ballot there.

The militias forced some 300,000 people to flee from East to West Timor but followed in their steps when international peacekeepers began to arrive in East Timor.

They have since continued to control the refugee camps in West Timor and have been accused of intimidating refugees to prevent their return to East Timor and of harrassing relief workers.

They have also been accused of using West Timor, especially the border refugee camps, as launching pads for forays into East Timor.

On Tuesday, a New Zealand unit of the UN peacekeeping force (UNPKF) in East Timor clashed with three miltiamen near the border town of Suai. One miltiaman was killed, but the New Zealanders suffered no casualties, a UNPKF spokesman said.

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