Subject: AP: Wiranto says "I'm no war criminal"

Indonesia's ex-military chief denies he is war criminal over East Timor By GEOFF SPENCER 06/11/2000

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesia's former military chief, Gen. Wiranto, expressed hopes Sunday that inquiries into his role in last year's devastation of East Timor would end in a peaceful compromise.

"I don't think I am a war criminal," Wiranto said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think that is an unfair statement."

The retired four-star army general was forced to step down as defense minister in February after an Indonesian investigation and a separate U.N. inquiry found him ultimately responsible for atrocities committed in East Timor .

Neither, though, uncovered evidence that Wiranto was personally involved in organizing the violence.

Anti-independence militia and some Indonesian soldiers went on a rampage after the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence in an U.N.-supervised ballot that ended 24 years of Indonesian rule.

Dozens of civilians were killed, thousands of buildings were wrecked and burned and tens of thousands of people were displaced.

Order was restored only after an Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived and Indonesian troops withdrew.

Wiranto has consistently denied responsibility for the mayhem and said on Sunday that he had tried hard to maintain peace before and after the vote.

The Indonesian government is under global pressure to punish the perpetrators of the violence.

It overcame calls for the establishment of an international war crimes tribunal by promising to bring those responsible to justice through its own court system.

Last week, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said he hoped to name several key suspects by August.

Wiranto, who resigned his Cabinet post last month, has been questioned twice recently about events in East Timor by Indonesia's Attorney General's office. He has also maintained his innocence before the national Parliament.

"I hope everything can be solved very peacefully," he said.

"I hope everything can be finished with a compromise," he said when asked if he thought charges might be filed against him.

Wiranto said he is now writing a book about his experiences as armed forces commander and a minister under three presidents. He said he wanted to set straight misinformation about his role.

He also defended the record of military in Indonesia's uneasy transition to democracy.

During the 32-year authoritarian rule of ex-President Suharto, the military carried out human rights abuses to crush dissent.

Now, two years after Suharto's departure from power, opponents accuse it of helping to foment outbreaks of civil and ethnic unrest in several spots across the sprawling Southeast Asian nation.

Wiranto rejected such accusations saying the fighting was the result of welled up feelings of injustice over a range of economic, political, social and cultural problems.

These had exploded with the coming of new freedoms after Suharto's ouster amid riots and protests in May 1998, he said.

"The (military) has a part to play in resolving the problem. It is not part of the problem. It has to solve the problem," he said.

Wiranto, a former close aide of Suharto, said he now only occasionally saw the former leader, who has been placed under house arrest as a suspect in an investigation into massive corruption.

Suharto has suffered a series of strokes and his family has said he is too sick to face questioning.

Wiranto said Suharto, who turned 79 last Thursday, was now primarily concerned about his health not politics.

"Physically he is well. But I think he has difficulty in remembering and exposing and explaining or giving information to someone," he said.

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