|Subject: ffitz - RT: Indonesian Army Recruits 1,000
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Indonesian Army Recruits 1,000 Timorese Militia 01:57 a.m. Feb 06, 1999 Eastern
By Lewa Pardomuan
DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - The Indonesian military said Saturday it would recruit 1,000 East Timorese and train them as a new civil militia, but said they would not be armed.
``Not at all,'' provincial military commander Colonel Tono Suratman told reporters when asked if the militia would be armed.
``This is part of the policy by the central government to maintain security. Not only for the general elections, but also for security in general.''
Members of the militia will be paid about 200,000 rupiah ($25) a month and are expected to start work in March.
Deputy East Timor military commander Colonel Mudjiono said the new militia was part of Indonesia's plan to train 40,000 people nationwide to help maintain peace in the lead-up to the June 7 national election.
``The recruits here will help the police. They are not civilians who will be armed. They will only be given clubs and handcuffs,'' he told Reuters.
Tensions in the former Portuguese colony heightened after Jakarta's said last month that it may let the restive province go if East Timorese reject an offer of special autonomy giving them wide powers over their affairs.
The move was an abrupt U-turn from Jakarta's firm refusal to even consider independence since it invaded the eastern half of Timor island 23 years ago in December, 1975.
Indonesia's rule is not recognized by the United Nations.
Human rights groups and aid workers say at least 50 people have died in the past six months in clashes between anti-Jakarta groups and loyalists -- Timorese who support Jakarta's rule.
The rival groups have also accused each other of stockpiling arms, sparking fear of a return of civil war that followed Portugal's sudden withdrawal in 1975.
A group of Indonesia loyalists are currently in Jakarta to ask government officials for guns to defend themselves from the pro-independence groups.
But Suratman said there were no reasons for concern.
``East Timor is safe,'' he said.
East Timor's spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo Thursday urged Indonesia to disarm loyalist paramilitary units and called for a time of healing for his bloodied homeland.
The armed forces deny arming civilian loyalists, but say they have given guns to official paramilitary units helping the military. Such units include no pro-independence East Timorese.
In New York Friday, Indonesia and Portugal wrapped up U.N.-sponsored talks on Indonesia's autonomy offer.
But the foreign ministers from the two countries will discuss how, when or whether the plan will be implemented, during two days of talks in New York from Sunday.
Portugal insists the autonomy package can only be transitional, until East Timorese themselves can decide whether to remain part of Indonesia or become independent.
($1 - 8,800 rupiah)