Subject: IPS: UN Condemns Surge in Violence
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 07:14:29 EDT

RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: UN Condemns Surge in Violence

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 26 (IPS) - The United Nations has called for an investigation into the latest of a series of violent attacks on supporters of East Timor's independence, which left at least four people dead in the island's capital, Dili.

The UN Security Council quickly called for an inquiry and condemned Thursday's attack in Dili and warned all parties, particularly the Indonesian government, to cooperate with the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was ''appalled by the widespread violence in Dili,'' UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said. He added that Annan had demanded that Indonesian authorities take immediate steps to restore law and order.

The UN's warnings came as some officials here conceded privately that a fresh surge in violence in East Timor - blamed on militia groups that favour a continuation of Indonesia's 23-year occupation - could delay Monday's ballot on self-determination.

UNAMET has organised the Aug. 30 vote, in which East Timor's nearly 450,000 registered voters can choose between autonomy under Indonesian rule or independence.

But one senior UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the world body could postpone the vote in some of East Timor's 13 provinces if the attacks persist.

''If violence prevents too many Timorese from voting, some delay will have to be considered,'' he said.

Still, the United Nations is adamant that the vote go forward. Almeida e Silva said Thursday that plans for the Aug. 30 vote were still in place.

The senior official acknowledged that it was unlikely - even in the most violent provinces - that the ballot would be delayed by more than one day. ''We believe it would play into the hands of those (who are responsible for the violence) if we were to postpone the ballots,'' he said.

''There is absolutely no question of delaying the referendum,'' Jamsheed Marker, special UN envoy to East Timor, said in Lisbon. ''The violence that took place was deplorable, but we are not going to let that deter us'' from proceeding with the vote, he added.

Annan already has delayed the vote twice, amid reports that pro- Indonesia militias were attacking pro-independence supporters, particularly in the western part of East Timor.

The Dili violence, in which members of the pro-Indonesia 'Aitarak' (Thorn) militia attacked the offices of the pro- independence National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), was just the latest indication that some paramilitaries are not prepared to accept a vote which may end Indonesia's occupation.

''It is crucial that, even at this late stage, concrete and effective steps be taken by Indonesia to control the militias who, it is increasingly clear, are intent on disrupting the popular consultation,'' Almeida e Silva said.

In Washington, James Foley- the US State Department deputy spokesman - added that ''there have been statements predicting violence and chaos, some attributed to Indonesian government officials, which can only be regarded as irresponsible.''

The senior UN official noted that the violence was occurring even as Indonesia's top Army officials and President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie had given their strongest assurances yet that they would cooperate with UNAMET.

Under a May agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, Indonesia has the responsibility to provide security for the self- determination ballot.

''Renewed assurances were given,'' the official said, but he added that the problem was that ''perhaps these assurances have not been translated'' to local-level officers. He noted that the United Nations is ''still hoping within the next few days that the situation will improve considerably.''

''The Indonesian government has placed its crediblity on the line,'' Foley noted.

The violence overshadowed one hopeful development in Indonesia when the Habibie government announced that Xanana Gusmao, the jailed leader of the Timorese pro-independence movement, would be released by Sep. 15.

Although Gusmao's supporters had urged that he be released before the vote, the independence leader - who has been tipped to become East Timor's president if the state is made independent - said Thursday that he regarded his release as ''better late than never.'' He is currently under house arrest in Jakarta.

Yet the announcement of the release did little to convince human rights groups that Indonesia intended to allow a free and fair vote. Amnesty International contended that at least five people have been killed and as many as 13 are believed missing over the past two weeks.

''With each killing and 'disappearance', the prospect of a free and fair ballot is becoming more remote,'' Amnesty said in a statement.

''There have been repeated assurances from the Indonesian authorities that they would act to improve the situation -- yet they have continually failed to fulfil their commitments.''

Despite such problems, Timorese pro-independence leaders are urging that the United Nations proceed with the vote. ''I believe it will go ahead, no matter what,'' Jose Luis Guterres, a senior CNRT official, said of the Monday vote. (END/IPS/fah/mk/99)

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