|Subject: RT: Lisbon appeals for calm in Timor, urges
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 08:01:12 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lisbon appeals for calm in Timor, urges U.N. help 06:58 a.m. Mar 31, 1999 Eastern
By Lewa Pardomuan
JAKARTA, March 31 (Reuters) - Portugual's envoy to Indonesia on Wednesday urged the United Nations to help secure peace in the troubled province of East Timor in the run-up to a vote on autonomy likely later this year.
``We should not fool ourselves...almost every day we hear of people being killed -- and we are not talking about warfare between the guerrillas and the military, we are talking about civilians,'' diplomat Ana Gomes told a conference.
Tensions in the former Portugese colony of 800,000 people have escalated since Jakarta abruptly announced in January it may grant independence if its offer of wide-ranging autonomy was rejected.
Indonesia and Portugal agreed this month to let the impoverished territory choose between autonomy and independence in a U.N.-organised ballot after the Indonesian election on June 7.
``The U.N. presence is very important to deter violence...it is very important to start a disarmament process,'' said Gomes.
``We don't believe that it is inevitable (to see) violence, bloodshed and chaos in East Timor. We believe the people East Timor are tired of war, they want peace.''
She said a ballot would be impossible if tensions were high.
``The situation is extremely serious. (The ballot)...will be impossible because at this moment people will not feel free to vote.''
Pro-Indonesia militias, which resistance leaders say have been armed by Jakarta, clash frequently with anti-Indonesian groups, sparking fears of bloody civil war.
The military has denied arming loyalists.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the eastern half of Timor island the next year in a move not recognised by the United Nations.
The United Nations said on Tuesday it would need a presence in East Timor soon to prepare for the vote and pro-independence East Timorese leaders and foreign governments have urged a U.N. operation to help ease tensions and prepare for possible independence.
Gomes said a U.N. presence was also important to protect Indonesian citizens in East Timor during the ballot.
``In my view, the U.N. will come to install an atmosphere that will allow people to (vote) freely. Portugal believes that anyone should be entitled to defend his views.
``If the people chose autonomy, of course the situation is very clear that the territory will be integrated into Indonesia.''