Subject: RT: Alatas wants quck decision by ET
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 08:53:26 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

INTERVIEW-Indonesia wants quick call on East Timor 05:58 p.m Feb 12, 1999 Eastern [excerpts]

By Janet Guttsman

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Indonesia's foreign minister on Friday ruled out a prolonged transition period on the road to independence for the rebel territory of East Timor, but said he hoped the Timorese would opt for autonomy within Indonesia rather than full independence.

Ali Alatas, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of developing countries in the Jamaican resort of Montego Bay, told Reuters that autonomy was ``the most realistic, the most fair, the most viable and the most peaceful solution'' for the region. Indonesia has ruled the former Portuguese colony with an iron fist for 23 years.

But failing that, Indonesia wanted the issue to be settled quickly and would not agree to a long period of autonomy in the run-up to independence, he added.

``There is a counter-proposal by some who want independence that would have a period of autonomy first then, after three, five or maybe 10 years, we have a referendum for independence,'' Alatas said.

``This is what we do not think is a realistic proposition.

It will not work, it will only be a recipe for continuing conflict in East Timor.'' ...

``We can never be correct,'' Alatas said. ``First they blame us for not wanting to move. Now we are moving too fast.''

Alatas said an outline of what sort of rules would apply to an autonomous East Timor should be ready by April and Indonesia would then assess, without a referendum, whether a majority of the East Timorese accepted these plans.

The debate would move to Indonesia's newly elected consultative assembly in August and the issue was expected to be settled by October or November.

The departure of Indonesian troops would, however, depend on agreement from the United Nations, possibly in conjunction with Portugal, on independence for the territory.

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