|Subject: RT - Indonesia will not discard East Timor
From: "Paula" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo: *Indonesia will not discard East Timor -Alatas 09:16 p.m Feb 02, 1999 Eastern
SINGAPORE, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Indonesia has said it will work towards ``wide- ranging autonomy'' for East Timor, but has ruled out any rapid withdrawal from the former Portuguese enclave, the International Herald Tribune reported on Wednesday.
``There is some misinterpretation here,'' Foreign Minister Ali Alatas told the newspaper, when asked if Jakarta was ready to accept full independence for the troubled territory.
``Indonesia does not intend to discard East Timor just like that,'' Alatas said in an interview.
Jakarta made the surprise announcement last week it may let the restive territory go -- abruptly reversing 23 years of staunch opposition to any suggestion of independence.
``What we have in mind is very autonomy for the territory, and right now we are trying to fill in the details to make this meaningful for all concerned,'' Alatas said.
Indonesia and Portugal had been discussing an autonomy package for the territory of 800,000 people at the United Nations ``for the past several weeks,'' he added.
The U.N. announced on Tuesday that Alatas and his Portuguese counterpart Jaime Gama are to hold a formal meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York on Sunday and Monday to discuss the plan.
Diplomats from the two countries also arrived in Lisbon and Jakarta on Saturday to set up offices under the auspices of embassies of friendly nations, establishing the first diplomatic ties since Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor.
Alatas reiterated Jakarta's position that independence would be granted only if attempts at creating autonomous status for East Timor failed.
``If we cannot agree on an autonomous status...by April, the only alternative may be abandoning East Timor altogether,'' the foreign minister was quoted as saying.
Alatas repeated the government's rejection of a referendum, long demanded by opposition leaders and Lisbon, describing a public vote as ``a recipe for civil conflict.''
``Already now there is fighting between pro- and anti-independence factions, and we don't want to be stuck with this problem for another couple of years,'' he said.
Factional tensions have been rising in East Timor amid reports that Indonesian loyalists were heading to Jakarta to seek arms, fearing civil war if independence is granted.