Subject: US Ambassador Warns: Guerrilla War Feared in East Timor

The Associated Press August 18, 2000

US Ambassador Warns: Guerrilla War Feared in East Timor


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - East Timor faces the threat of a new guerrilla war unless Indonesia immediately clamps down on militias that have been using neighboring West Timor as a safe haven, the U.S. envoy to Indonesia said Friday.

The militias are opposed to independence for East Timor, the south Pacific territory which separated from Indonesia after a referendum last summer. West Timor is still ruled by Indonesia.

``We now see the stakes being raised dramatically,'' Ambassador Robert Gelbard said. ``We are now on the verge of seeing if Indonesia will allow a guerrilla war to be waged from its territory against East Timor.''

Gelbard's warning is the latest in a line of increasingly alarmist statements by diplomats, peacekeeping officers and East Timorese independence leaders as the territory prepares to mark the first anniversary of its secession vote. Over the last two months, clashes between U.N. peacekeepers and pro-Indonesia gangs infiltrating across the rugged border from West Timor have increased.

East Timor voted for independence last Aug. 30 in a U.N.-sponsored ballot. Afterward, tens of thousands of people fled their homes when pro-Indonesia militiamen reacted by going on a violent rampage.

The violence ended when international forces landed in the territory in September. Most refugees have since returned home, but about 80,000 - mainly militiamen and their families - remain in camps in Indonesian-held West Timor.

The United Nations, which is administering East Timor during its transition to full independence, has repeatedly complained that militiamen are using West Timor camps as a base for border incursions. Western military officials say the Indonesian army is providing advanced infantry training, automatic rifles and communications equipment to the infiltrators.

Two U.N. peacekeepers have been killed and four others wounded by militiamen in fighting so far.

``Indonesia is participating in endangering East Timor's territorial integrity,'' Gelbard said in an interview. The U.S. government has been pressing Jakarta ``in every way we can'' to disband the militias, he said.

A leading human rights group has urged the international community to reinstate a ban on military sales to Indonesia unless Jakarta disbands the militias. New York-based Human Rights Watch said governments should insist that the gangs be put out of business before the next donor conference on Indonesia, scheduled for October in Tokyo.

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