Subject: AN: Indon Mily Exercise In Batek Island Not To Threaten E Timor - Officer

INDON MILY EXERCISE IN BATEK ISLAND NOT TO THREATEN E TIMOR - OFFICER

January 23, 2004 11:01pm Antara

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara, Jan 23 (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Defense Force's (TNI) military exercise in Batek Island in East Nusa Tenggara province was not to show off its might to neighboring East Timor, chief of the Udayana regional military command, Maj Gen Supiadin, has said.

"They (East Timor) could be suspicious of it, but I reiterate that the TNI does not have any intention to disturb East Timor's sovereignty," Supiadin said here Friday.

On Thursday, East Timorese Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Ramos Horta told ABC News Online that he has asked the United Nations to extend the stay of its peacekeeping force in the country.

The UN peacekeepers are slated to leave East Timor on May 20.

Rumors said that Horta's request was prompted by the military exercise conducted by the Indonesian Navy's Eastern Fleet in Batek Island last December.

The request contradicted Horta's previous statement that Indonesia has been showing a better attitude toward his country.

"We do not face any external threat. Moreover, Indonesia has shown its statesmanship and better ties with East Timor," Horta said then.

According to Supiadin, East Timor has been relying on Indonesia for fuel oil supplies and basic necessities.

"We have developed good friendship with East Timor as our closest neighbor," he said.

Batek Island is situated in North Amfoang subdistrict, Kupang district in East Nusa Tenggara, which shares a border with East Timor.

"There was an instruction from (Indonesian) President Megawati to hold military exercises in the island, to give the Navy a clear illustration on Indonesian islands situated at the country's outer territorial line," Supiadin said.

The government's failure to claim Sipadan and Ligitan islands, which the International Court of Justice had awarded to Malaysia, has prompted Indonesia to secure the islands situated at its outer territorial lines.

Among these islands is Batek Island, which East Timor has claimed to be part of its territory due to its geographical proximity to the East Timorese enclave of Oecusse.

(THROUGH ASIA PULSE)


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