Subject: Pres. Wahid Orders Stern Action Against Militia on Border

President orders stern action against militia on border

JAKARTA, March 10 (AFP) - Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has ordered his armed forces to disarm and take stern action against militia launching cross-border attacks into East Timor from West Timor, a senior minister said Friday.

"The president is very concerned and unhappy ... (he) immediately called the minister of defence and the armed forces commander to take the necessary actions (to stop the raids)," Foreign Minister Alwi Sihab told reporters.

"We can no longer tolerate these incidents, and the perpetrators s should not only be given a stern warning, but also receive what we call legal sanctions," Shihab quoted Wahid as saying.

The minister was responding to a strong protest lodged here on Thursday by the head of the UN peacekeeping Force in East Timor (UNTAET) Lieuenant General Jaime de los Santos against an alarming new spate of cross-border raids by the militia.

The raids, 16 in as many days, have been conducted by large troups of well-armed men striking out of West Timor. They have left at least one East Timorese dead, and reportedly also involved shooting at an Australian helicopter and house burning.

"I immediately reported to Mr. President, and he then immediately called the defence minister to take actions to, if necessary, disarm the militia and to make more efforts efforts and be firmer because this has harmed Indonesia's reputation before the international community," Shihab said.

The minister said he was unable to say whether or not it was a coincidence or a conspiracy that the attacks escalated immediately after Wahid's landmark trip to East Timor on February 29, when he promised improved relations.

"We don't want this isue to be somehow used as an excuse to say that Indonesia, in handling the refugees and its relationship with East Timor is not really serious in its intention," he added.

"We are aware that since President Gus Dur's visit to East Timor there has been some kind of escalation. We have no idea whether this is a deliberate act or is just purely conincidental.

"But we are very concerned because this incident will tarnish Indonesia's reputation."

Shihab was speaking to the press at Jakarta's international airport before leaving for Saudi Arabia for a shortened Haj pilgrimage, or Umroh.

The pro-Jakarta milita, who were in the forefront of the reign of terror in East Timor after its people voted for independence last year, fled to West Timor when Australian troops landed there in September to halt the violence.

They have since in some cases regrouped, and according to UN aid agencies are in control of refugee camps there.


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