Subject: UN: Militias Organizing To Thwart E. Timor Independence

Associated Press August 29, 2000

UN: Militias Organizing To Thwart E. Timor Independence

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The United Nations warned Tuesday that recent militia attacks against peacekeepers in East Timor appear to be a coordinated attempt to undermine the territory's transition to independence and discredit the interim U.N. administration.

Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi told Security Council members that they should be prepared for a worst-case scenario in which the militias may try to destabilize East Timor through "offensive guerrilla-style operations" against civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.

His unusually bleak briefing came on the eve of the first anniversary of East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia, the results of which sparked a weeks-long looting and killing rampage by pro-Indonesian militias opposed to independence.

The violence ended after an Australian-led intervention force took control and restored calm and the United Nations Transitional Administration, or UNTAET, began running the territory.

In his briefing, Annabi said attacks in the last month by eight groups of pro-Indonesian militias showed a new willingness by anti-independence forces to exchange fire with U.N. peacekeepers, two of whom have died in recent weeks.

"Their level of activity within East Timor is reflective of a degree of coordination and preparation that has not been seen so far," Annabi said.

The militias' ultimate objectives aren't yet known. "However, overall it is felt that their intent is to continue a pattern of violence against the civilian population and UNTAET in order to try and undermine the transition process," he said.

Militias may also be trying to discredit the U.N. mission and undermine its ability to maintain security "by inflicting casualties at every opportunity," he said.

To counter the increasing violence, plans to reduce the number of U.N. peacekeepers in certain sectors of East Timor have been shelved and battalions have been redeployed to bolster units that have come under fire, Annabi said.

He suggested that the Indonesian armed forces, implicated in the 1999 violence, may have at least allowed the recent attacks to occur, noting that some militia members have been found with army uniforms and weapons.

But Indonesia's U.N. Ambassador, Markarim Wibisono, rejected suggestions that the mere presence of army uniforms among militia members implied army involvement, noting "such material can be easily acquired on the black market."

While condemning the recent attacks on U.N. personnel, he stressed that Indonesia wasn't responsible for what went on inside East Timor.

"UNTAET, being responsible for security in the territory of East Timor, has the clear robust and unequivocal mandate to take the necessary actions to maintain that security," he said.

But several Security Council members said Indonesia was responsible for curbing the source of the violence -the militias who operate across the border in West Timor.

"Indonesia must cooperate more closely with UNTAET to end cross-border incursions from West Timor, to disarm and disband the militias and to prosecute militia members guilty of crimes," said Stewart Eldon, Britain's deputy U.N. ambassador.

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