Subject: AFP: British minister optimistic on aid for Indonesia at donor meeting

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

British minister optimistic on aid for Indonesia at donor meeting

JAKARTA, Oct 11 (AFP) - An upcoming meeting of Indonesia's main donors is unlikely to withhold aid pledges for the country, a visiting British government minister said here Wednesday.

"I don't think not making pledges on aid is likely to happen," Britain's International Development Minister Clare Short told journalists.

Indonesia is seeking 4.8 billion US dollars in budget aid commitment from leading donors, grouped under the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), when it meets in Tokyo on October 17-18.

Indonesia has been warned by the World Bank and the United States that financial aid would be jeopardised if it failed to disarm and disband East Timorese militias in West Timor following the slaying of three UN relief workers at the hands of militiamen on September 6.

Short said she had been told that only 80 light weapons had been handed in under the disarmament effort as of Tuesday.

"We think there's been some progress. It needs driving forward and the international community needs to support these efforts," Short said.

"There will be a commitment to spend behind the reform effort," she said of Britain's approach to the meeting.

The minister said Britain wants to play "a supportive role in helping drive through reforms" in Indonesia, saying there were "genuine intentions for reforms."

"But there needs to be more progress on the ground," she added.

Indonesian police and soldiers began disarming militias on September 28, and have extended the deadline for the handover and seizure of all weapons to October 17, when the CGI donor meeting gets under way.

"There seems to be a clear determination to make progress. More progress is needed," Short said of the disarmament operation.

The real test of the success of disarmament efforts would be the process of registering the refugees to determine whether they wish to stay in Indonesia or return to East Timor, she said.

Indonesian authorities were expected to begin the registration process in two to three weeks, she said, under the eyes of international observers.

Some 130,000 East Timorese refugees are believed to be still holed up in camps in West Timor and the government has said it planned to close them down soon.

The refugees were part of a larger influx of more than 250,000 East Timorese forced to flee East Timor during the unchecked rampage by militias after the people voted for independence in a UN-held ballot in August 1999.

"We all need to see refugees state what their wishes are," Short said.

Britain's ambassador to Indonesia, Richard Gozney, who was accompanying Short, also pointed to the registration process as the test of the effectiveness of disarmament efforts.

"Then we'll see how free the refugees are to make choices on their future," Gozney said.

The international observers were likely to come from the United Nations, Short said, adding international support for the resettlement of those refugees who choose to stay in Indonesia would be "mobilised."

Jakarta has repeatedly complained that it lacks the funds to resettle the refugees, with one minister saying Tuesday that the government could only afford to provide homes for 4,000 families.

Local government officials in West Timor say there are more than 33,000 families among the East Timorese refugees.


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