Subject: RT: Habibie Aide condemns Timor deaths, wants peace deal
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:19:26 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Jakarta Condemns East Timor Militia Rampage 08:23 a.m. Apr 18, 1999 Eastern

By Tommy Ardiansyah

DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - Indonesia condemned a bloody rampage by pro-Jakarta militia in East Timor, but said Sunday spiraling violence in the territory would not be allowed to derail a U.N.-brokered peace process.

At least a dozen and possibly more than 30 people died when Jakarta loyalists rampaged through Dili Saturday after a rally at which a militia leader urged the cleansing of independence supporters.

It was one of the bloodiest clashes in the former Portuguese colony since Indonesian troops gunned down dozens of civilians in a funeral parade at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991. East Timorese say more than 200 died then, Jakarta says more than 50.

About the same time that a top aide to President B.J. Habibie condemned Saturday's violence, one person died and several people were hurt in a Sunday clash between youths for and against independence near Hera, east of Dili, the official Antara news agency quoted police as saying.

An aide to the mainly Catholic territory's spiritual leader, Bishop Carlos Belo, said the situation remained tense. ``We are trying to figure out how to defend ourselves,'' he said.

Belo Sunday prayed over the bodies of 12 victims and asked the military to guarantee the safety of civilians, Antara said.

Witnesses, including a Reuters cameraman and a photographer, say militiamen rampaged unchecked by security forces Saturday after a rally outside the governor's office at which a militia leader called for the cleansing of independence supporters.

A spokeswoman for detained pro-independence guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao told Reuters in Jakarta that more than 23 people died, mostly refugees sheltering after previous violence.

Indonesian media, quoting military (ABRI) and police officials in East Timor, said more than 20 died. However, ABRI said in a statement in Jakarta that 12 independence activists died after pro-Jakarta militia retaliated against an earlier attack.

Habibie aide Dewi Fortuna Anwar told Reuters that Jakarta, as the ruling authority, accepted responsibility for any deaths.

``It's our responsibility because we are the only ones here. We condemn the act of violence...and we hope that it won't disturb the agenda for next week's meeting of foreign ministers.

``What we want is a peaceful solution. If East Timorese stay with Indonesia, we want that to be peaceful, and if they separate we want to have peaceful relations with East Timor.''

The foreign ministers of Indonesia and Portugal meet in New York from Thursday for U.N.-sponsored talks on a ballot to allow the former Portuguese colony to choose between independence and enhanced autonomy within Indonesia.

Loyalists stepped up their campaign of violence after Jakarta in January abandoned its 23-year opposition to independence.

Analysts said the militia, armed and trained by the Indonesian military and terrified of independence, are out of control.

``They are cranking up the fear and intimidation prior to the ballot because they realize if there is a free ballot they will lose,'' Australian academic Alan Dupont told Reuters in Australia.

Saturday's killings sparked world outrage, with most governments blaming Jakarta for failing to control the militia.

Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews, who was visiting Belo Saturday, urged a United Nations presence.

``I was appalled, shocked and horrified at what I saw,'' he told Australian Broadcasting Corp television.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he ``strongly deplores these new acts of violence and regrets the apparent inability of the Indonesian authorities to control the violence by the militias and protect the civilian population.''

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said: ``I am very concerned at the way in which the situation has deteriorated and the Indonesian government cannot escape responsibility for at least some of that, if not all of it.''

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, a move never recognized by the United Nations.

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