Subject: Indonesia backs away from Timor militia deadline

Indonesia backs away from Timor militia deadline

By Tomi Soetjipto

JAKARTA, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Indonesia has abandoned its deadline for disarming pro-Jakarta militias in West Timor, a move likely to anger foreign governments demanding action against the thuggish gangs.

The move coincides with a two-day meeting of donors under the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) that opened in Tokyo on Tuesday to hear the cash-strapped government's request for $4.8 billion in fresh aid.

The United States and the World Bank have said aid could be jeopardised if Indonesia failed to rein in the violent gangs, who last month murdered three U.N. aid workers in West Timor.

A police official at the national police spokesman's office said authorities were still seizing weapons from the militias, but now there was no deadline for total disarmament.

Previous deadlines were set for the end of September then extended to mid-October.


The police official, who declined to be identified, said 1,256 homemade weapons had so far been confiscated. Only a small number of standard military guns have been seized.

"We are still doing this, but until now we have no deadline," the policeman told Reuters.

The slaughter of the three workers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the West Timor border town of Atambua on September 6 smeared Indonesia 's international reputation and added to the headaches confronting President Abdurrahman Wahid.

It drove Jakarta's relations with the United Nations and key governments to their lowest since Wahid became the country's first democratically-elected president a year ago.

A U.N. Security Council delegation is expected to visit Indonesia in mid-November to evaluate the situation in East and West Timor. Jakarta stalled a previous delegation in the aftermath of the killings, saying it wanted time to deal with the militias first.

Indonesia set up the militias in a failed bid to influence the outcome of last year's U.N.-brokered ballot in East Timor, in which Timorese overwhelmingly voted to end Jakarta's rule.


After the vote result, the militias, backed by the Indonesian military and police, killed hundreds of East Timorese, destroyed much of the impoverished territory and forced 300,000 others to flee into Indonesian West Timor.

About 120,000 remain stuck in West Timor after repatriation and the processing of those East Timorese who want to remain in Indonesia was suspended because of the militia violence.

Residents and police said on Tuesday the situation in Atambua had been calm in recent weeks.

"It is quite rare to see militias armed with weapons roaming the streets these days," said one resident.

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