|Subject: US calls Indonesian move on East Timor
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 08:12:29 -0000
From: "Paula Pinto" <email@example.com>
US calls Indonesian move on East Timor 'positive'
WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (AFP) - The United States on Wednesday called Indonesia's new willingness to grant autonomy to East Timor "a positive development," saying it seemed to give local people a say in their fate.
"We welcome any agreement on the future status of East Timor that is supported by the parties and offers the possibility of a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem," the State Department said.
"The new Indonesian policy appears to explicitly give the people of East Timor a direct role in deciding East Timor's future. As such it is a positive development," it said in a statement.
"At this point, we have no details regarding the Indonesian government's plan for consulting the people of East Timor, or the means by which the people of East Timor will be asked to consider this latest proposal," it added.
Earlier Wednesday, Indonesian Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah said Jakarta might grant independence to East Timor if a majority there reject an offer of wide-ranging autonomy.
If plans for a "regional autonomy 'plus'" were rejected by most East Timorese "we will suggest to the new membership of the People's Consultative Assembly formed as the result of the next elections, to release East Timor from Indonesia," Yosfiah said.
The announcement about the former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesian troops in 1975 took diplomats by surprise and came on the eve of a new talks in New York between Indonesia and Portugal on the autonomy plan.
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Indonesia's reported willingness to grant independence to East Timor, but said that talks on UN autonomy proposals would continue.
In a statement read by his spokesman Fred Eckhard, Annan also welcomed Jakarta's announcement Wednesday that East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao would be transferred from jail to house arrest.
UN autonomy proposals for East Timor have not been made public, and western diplomats had until now expected little progress until Indonesian elections in June.
The UN-sponsored talks, whose last round was held in November, are chaired by UN special representative Jamsheed Marker of Pakistan.