Subject: RT: Australia seeks defence monitors in East Timor
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 11:48:32 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Australia seeks defence monitors in East Timor 01:07 a.m. Nov 26, 1998 Eastern
By Michael Perry
CANBERRA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australian Defence Minister John Moore left for Indonesia on Thursday saying he would seek permission for Australian military observers to visit East Timor following recent reports of a civilian massacre.
Moore also urged Indonesian troops to show restraint when dealing with protesters calling for greater democracy.
``We look to them to exercise restraint at all times, but we understand they have to keep law and order,'' Moore said.
The United States on Wednesday said Indonesian security forces used excessive force against unarmed demonstrators in Jakarta earlier this month, leaving at least 14 people dead.
In the past two weeks, at least 30 people have been killed in some of the worst violence in the capital since May when at least 1,200 died.
The United States has also expressed concerns about an upsurge of violence in East Timor, citing ``credible reports'' of civilian deaths during a recent military sweep.
Moore said Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas had already given approval for Australian military observers to visit East Timor and that he would raise the issue with Indonesian defence chief General Wiranto during talks on Friday.
``I think the Indonesians concede the right of the Australians to see what is going on there,'' Moore said.
``If Alatas says it is okay and the minister for defence in our discussions tomorrow says okay, I can't see why this won't occur,'' he told reporters.
Former East Timor governor Mario Carrascalao has said that church officials in the former Portuguese colony have told him up to 50 people died in a recent military crackdown.
Indonesia denies a massacre occurred.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 after Portugal abandoned it. Jakarta annexed the territory a year later, a move not recognised by the United Nations.
Australia is one of the few nations to accept Indonesian sovereignty over the troubled province.
Indonesia maintains a heavy military presence in East Timor, where its troops have been accused of widespread human rights abuses during Jakarta's rule.
In 1991 troops opened fire at civilians in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. East Timorese say about 200 people were killed, but Jakarta puts the number at 50.
Australia's defence minister Moore will meet Wiranto on Friday in Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, and plans to meet with President B.J. Habibie on Saturday.
Moore said there was no immediate plan to reinstate suspended joint military exercises with Indonesia's special forces Kopassus, but added it was important that Australia maintain close links with the Indonesian armed forces (ABRI).
``It is in the Australian national interest to be close to ABRI,'' Moore said.
Indonesia is Australia's most important ally in Southeast Asia following the signing of a 1995 bilateral defence pact.