Subject: UN return to West Timor still not possible, UN official says

UN return to West Timor still not possible, UN official says

JAKARTA, Jan 16 (AFP) - The continued presence of armed pro-Jakarta militias in West Timor made it unsafe for UN aid workers to return there, a visiting senior UN official said Tuesday.

"It is very important that the security situation in West Timor can be guaranteed (so that) the UN workers can return," said Harri Holkeri, the chairman of the UN General Assembly said.

"But at the moment it is not possible because of the presence of militia forces," he told journalists after meeting President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Three UN aid workers were killed in a militia mob attack on their offices in the border town of Atambua in September, leading to the withdrawal of all UN foreign workers in the Indonesian territory of West Timor.

"What happened in Atambua is not encouraging the UN workers to return until better security guarantees are given," Holkeri said.

The UN Security Council has called for the disbanding and disarming of the militias, who fled across the border into West Timor when foreign troops arrived to quell the violence in East Timor which erupted after the August 30, 1999 UN ballot.

The pro-Jakarta militias were enraged when the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia which had occupied the former Portuguese colony for more than two decades.

Holkeri said Wahid told him the United Nations and Jakarta had a common goal of establishing peace on the border between East Timor and Indonesia.

"The final goal must be that the border between East Timor and Indonesia will be a normal peaceful line with free access for people to come and go and to have social, political and economic contacts," Holkeri added.

Earlier Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told journalists Indonesia was dealing with the militia problem and had drawn up ways of dealing with the militias but their efforts were bedevilled.

"There are still obstacles colouring the disbanding of the militia and the gathering of their weapons," Darusman said.

He said the militias were just one of the myriad of problems facing the country since the separation of East Timor from Indonesia.

"We said that we have taken some actions," Darusman said, pointing to the trial of notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Guterres has been on trial in Jakarta since January 2 with prosecutors accusing him of inciting people to oppose the security authorities, a charge that can carry up to six years in jail.

Guterres, who has been linked to the 1999 massacres in East Timor, is on trial for allegedly ordering his men to take back surrendered weapons handed over during a ceremony in Atambua in September.

Darusman said he had told Holkeri "the situation (in West Timor) is now already under control", adding the government did not recognize the existence of militia units and had declared they were disbanded.

But he admitted: "The weapons surrender has not yet been completed" although it was impossible to say how many weapons were in the hands of the militias.

The militias went on a campaign of violence, terror and destruction after the results of the East Timor ballot were announced, forcing more than 300,000 East Timorese to flee to Indonesia's West Timor.

The militia are said to control the West Timor refugee camps, where some 100,000 people remain, and have been accused of harrasing refugees and aid workers, and intimidating people who want to return home to East Timor.

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