Subject: RT: Belo calls for troop cut
Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 11:27:12 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Timor bishop calls for cut in Indonesian military 02:48 a.m. Oct 15, 1998 Eastern
By Tommy Ardiansyah
DILI, East Timor, Oct 15 (Reuters) - East Timor spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo on Thursday urged an end to Indonesian military activity in the troubled territory amid reports of fresh armed clashes with rebels.
``If we want to have dialogue and a peaceful solution, then the number of troops should be reduced in order to give room for people to move,'' he told Reuters.
``It is not good to talk about reform and dialogue when there is (military) action,'' he told Reuters.
The former Portuguese colony of 800,000 people has been hit by fresh rumours of increasing Indonesian military presence and clashes between troops and the Fretilin guerrilla movement, whose number is estimated at little more than 200.
When asked about the clashes, Belo said: ``There have been...in the eastern part.'' He gave no further details.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, a move never recognised by the United Nations.
Human rights groups have accused Indonesian troops of persistent rights abuses there.
Belo said he welcomed Tuesday's statement by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who called for a cessation of all military activity in East Timor and a substantial reduction of the Indonesian military presence there.
A statement issued through a U.N. spokesman said Annan was disturbed by rising tension in East Timor, particularly reports of armed clashes and remarks attributed to local officials that apparently provoked large-scale protests in recent days.
Fresh anti-Indonesia protests broke out in Dili this week, sparked by comments from Jakarta-appointed governor Abilio Soares that civil servants risked being fired if they opposed Indonesia's proposals on granting autonomy but not independence to the territory.
However, in the past two days, Dili has been quiet and military officials and police insisted that East Timor was safe.
Belo said he had heard reports by residents of increasing military presence in the territory.
``There has been new activity, especially in the evening. It does not matter whether the troops are coming with health missions... People just do not want to see them any more.''
By August, Indonesia had pulled out what it said were the last of its combat troops from East Timor. But the withdrawal was widely seen as little more than a token gesture, with some 5,000 troops remaining.
Meanwhile in the island resort of Bali, about 50 East Timorese leaders, both against and for a referenum, started a two-day meeting with Foreign Minister Ali Alatas on Thursday to discuss the territory's future, government officials said.
``The meeting aims at giving a clearer picture of what Indonesia means by the wide-ranging autonomy,'' one said.
The official declined comment on Annan's remarks.
In Jakarta, about 24 East Timorese youths staged a protest in front of the U.N. office demanding a referendum. Dozens of police watched the protest but there were no reports of violence.
Portugal and Indonesia held three days of talks at the United Nations last week but came to no agreement on Indonesia's proposals for granting wide-ranging autonomy to East Timor as a final settlement of the dispute over the territory. The two sides were due to meet again in November.
On October 6, Alatas said the government would not allow a referendum on independence for East Timor.
He said Indonesia's proposal of granting wider autonomy for East Timor was the best hope for resolving the dispute over the territory.