|Subject: RT: Indonesia, Portugal Move Toward E.
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Indonesia, Portugal Move Toward E. Timor Settlement 01:02 a.m. Feb 09, 1999 Eastern
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Despite progress in talks on the future of East Timor, Portuguese and Indonesian foreign ministers still differed Monday on how or if to allow a vote in the territory and whether a U.N. mission was needed.
Indonesian-ruled East Timor, a former Portuguese colony of 800,000 people with a strong independence movement, has been the center of a dispute for more than 20 years and a focus of human rights abuse accusations against Jakarta.
The two foreign ministers, Ali Alatas of Indonesia and Jaime Gama of Portugal, completed two days of talks with U.N. mediator Jamsheed Marker. They told a news conference that their next meeting in New York would be on March 10, a day after senior officials from both sides talk again.
Both sides have negotiated for months an autonomy package for Timor but are not certain yet how this fits into a scenario for possible independence for the territory.
If the Timorese reject autonomy, as most expect they will, Jakarta will ask its legislature in August to rescind its resolution integrating East Timor with Indonesia.
Officials said that by the end of the year Portugal and the United Nations could set up a transitional administration to guide the territory toward independence.
But a major stumbling point is on the first step. Indonesia insists there not be a referendum in the territory on an autonomy package while it is under Jakarta's control.
``A referendum or any kind of a decision by the East Timorese people using that kind of a form of the assessment of the views is not the way we think to proceed,'' Alatas said, adding that he feared full-scale civil war would break out.
Gama late Sunday told reporters Alatas had agreed to some kind of a ballot, providing it would not be called a referendum. Alatas said Marker should devise ``the best way to determine whether or not this autonomy package will be acceptable to the East Timorese or will be rejected.''
Marker, in turn, would not reveal what his proposals were but said ``there are no short cuts to democracy, much less a question of short-circuiting the democratic process.''
``We can't fudge this. On that I am absolutely sure.''
Gama agreed, saying Portugal believed there was no way, short of a vote, to establish the views of the Timorese. He said Portugal's agreement to the autonomy package under negotiation would depend on this process.
``We are at the end of the 20th century. Democracy is expanding. I cannot see the U.N. today having another methodology for ascertaining the view of any people except the way of democracy, the way of a voting process,'' Gama said.
Gama also said the United Nations needed an immediate presence in the territory, saying it was unusual that the world body had to take responsibility for an autonomy process without actually being in the territory.
But Alatas said Marker and his staff had made many trips to East Timor. ``The U.N. needs not to have an office there because that would undermine or prejudge the basic position of Indonesia on the very subject on which we have a dispute.''
Indonesia, which invaded East Timor in 1975 after Portugal abandoned the territory, on Jan. 27 startled the world by offering independence if autonomy were rejected. Its annexation is not recognized by the international community.
Jakarta's offer, which heightened tension and fighting in the territory, came after the country plunged into turmoil last May when President Suharto, after three decades of rule, was replaced by President B.J. Habibie.
East Timor independence leader Jose Ramos Horta told a separate news conference Monday that it was not in Indonesia's interests to block independence, although he understood face-saving measures were needed.
``Internationally it will be unsustainable for a country that badly needs international assistance,'' he said. ``it would be very difficult for them to explain in Washington, to the U.S. Congress, to the World Bank, that they need hundreds of millions of dollars that would be diverted to keep a colonial occupation of East Timor. It simply will not work. ``