Subject: AU: Ramos Horta leaves Downer on limb

The Australian

Ramos Horta leaves Downer on limb

Sian Powell and Mark Dodd


FROM his post high in the misty Indonesian hills of Manusasi, Indonesian First Lieutenant Sujatmin keeps watch on the international border with East Timor.

It's an increasingly important - and potentially dangerous - job. In the past six weeks, there have been nine violent incursions over the border, spurring a flurry of international diplomacy.

UN mission chief in East Timor Sukehiro Hasegawa told The Australian yesterday there were grave concerns that tensions were escalating, giving rise to fears of increasing violence in the sensitive border regions. "We had thought this was increasing; it was increasing and it was of concern to us," he said. "But since we visited both the TNI (Indonesian military) and the police force commanders, we have seen a reduction in these incidents for the past week. We have to see how it will develop."

Yesterday, East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta admitted Indonesian troops had been stoking border violence in the country's northwest - reversing his earlier denial of military involvement and directly contradicting claims by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

In a Foreign Ministry statement from Dili, dated October 21 and seen by The Weekend Australian, Mr Ramos Horta blamed "misbehaving" elements of the Indonesian Army for provoking a series of border incidents.

"The briefing given by our police in the area seems to confirm that there is some degree of TNI involvement in the incidents," Mr Ramos Horta said.

"However, this possible involvement by some elements of TNI does not reflect Indonesian government policies or official attitude of the TNI leadership.

"We should not tolerate incidents in Oecussi, although there have been too many already in the period of one month. Each and every one of them has been caused by the other side."

Claims of Indonesian military involvement along the disputed border is an embarrassment for Mr Downer, who, like Mr Ramos Horta, last week denied any involvement of Indonesian troops, describing the border problems in Oecussi as a dispute between local farmers.

The 3km valley between the Indonesian town of Manusasi and the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi is now considered a no man's land because the border issue remains unresolved.

Lieutenant Sujatmin said that before East Timor's struggle for independence, East Timorese and Indonesians farmed the land but now, tensions were running high.

In the most serious clash on October 15, two East Timorese police were injured in an attack by 200 Indonesian villagers.

More reports from the troubled region in Worldwide on Monday

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