Subject: AP: Indonesia Training Offer To E Timor Sparks Mixed Reaction

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Associated Press September 8, 2003

Indonesia Training Offer To E Timor Sparks Mixed Reaction

DILI, East Timor (AP)--A top East Timorese commander said Monday it was time to put the country's troubled past behind it and endorse an offer from Indonesia, its former occupier, of joint military training.

Col. Lere Anan Timor, the Timorese army's chief-of-staff who battled Indonesian forces during the country's 24-year war for independence, acknowledged that Indonesia's brutal reign ending in 1999 left deep "psychological scars" on many Timorese victims.

But he said an agreement forged over the weekend in Jakarta between the Indonesian military and the East Timor Defense Force showed that Indonesia sincerely wanted a new relationship.

"This is very positive agreement. We have to look at the bright future for our two countries and forget the past," he told journalists.

"Do not consider Indonesia today as an enemy but consider Indonesia as more than a brother," said Lere, who served as a paratrooper in Portugal's colonial army before Indonesia's invasion in Dec. 1975.

At least 100,000 East Timorese died in the ensuing 24-year guerrilla war.

Indonesia's armed forces head Gen. Endriartono Sutarto made the training offer Saturday during a meeting in Jakarta with Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, commander of the small East Timor Defense Force.

Sutarto said no decision had been made on the specific type of training involved, adding that it was up to East Timor to decide what its requirements were.

The proposal was seen as a further indication of warming ties between the two countries.

After a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in August 1999, the Indonesian army and its militia proxies killed nearly 2,000 people and destroyed much of the half-island territory. U.N. troops finally restored order and after a period of transitional rule East Timor gained full independence in May 2002.

About 3,000 international peacekeepers remain in East Timor to support its fledgling army. They are scheduled to depart next year.

Some Timorese legislators criticized the Indonesian military proposal.

"East Timor can accept this military training offers from Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Portugal," Mariano Sabino said. "But it is too early to cooperate with the Indonesians."

Ministers from both governments - who met in Dili over the weekend - agreed to also set up a joint commission to discuss border security, trade and property compensation.

On Monday, Ali Alatas, President Megawati Sukarnoputri's representative for Association of Southeast Asian Nations, arrived in Dili for a series of meetings with Timorese leaders.


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