Subject: JP: U.S. wants trial over E. Timor mayhem

Jakarta Post March 04, 2000

U.S. wants trial over E. Timor mayhem

JAKARTA (JP): The United States warned on Friday that military cooperation between Washington and Jakarta would only be restored if those responsible for atrocities in East Timor last year were brought to justice.

"There are serious requirements that have to be established before this (the military cooperation) can be carried out, and that includes the accountability for what happened in East Timor," visiting U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas R. Pickering told a news conference.

Speaking to reporters at the end of his two-day visit here, Pickering said the trial of alleged perpetrators of East Timor violence would be "preliminary to beginning further military cooperation" between the two countries.

Washington suspended its military ties with Jakarta over the East Timor mayhem that erupted after the people there voted overwhelmingly against an autonomy proposal within Indonesia in the UN-administered ballot in August last year.

The government-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor has implicated former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Wiranto and a number of senior officers in the violence.

Pickering added that the return of refugees from East Nusa Tenggara to East Timor was another important factor that would be taken into account before resuming military cooperation between the two countries.

"The refugees' situation (in East Nusa Tenggara) is a high priority on our list," Pickering said.

U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert S. Gelbard, who was also present on Friday, said "there is considerable concern in our congress and also in the executive branch" about the refugees in East Nusa Tenggara.

Pickering also said that Washington backed President Abdurrahman Wahid's determination to maintain the country's unity, but urged him not to resort to military might to crush a separatist rebellion in the troubled province of Aceh.

"The U.S. strongly supports Indonesia's efforts at political and economic reform and of course supports Indonesia's territorial integrity and is not in favor of dividing up Indonesia," Pickering said.

While hailing Indonesia's democratic transition, Pickering warned that the current offensive by the security forces to stamp out rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was unlikely to settle the conflict.

"We don't believe the problem can be resolved ... by the use of military force," Pickering said. "We believe the problem must be resolved through the process of dialogue, discussions and negotiations."

More than 100 people, mostly civilians, have died in a series of operations to pound the rebel bases across the province in February alone.

Pickering added that "the door is now open to listen to and hear the concerns of the leaders and people in Aceh".

The rebels are demanding an East Timor-style independence referendum that would determine whether the region of four million people on the northwestern tip of Sumatra island breaks away or remains part of Indonesia.

Abdurrahman has overruled the possibility of holding such a referendum. Instead, he has offered wide-ranging autonomy to the staunchly Muslim province, including the imposition of Islamic law. (byg)

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