|Subject: RT: INTERVIEW-Lisbon says Timor solution
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:29:05 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
INTERVIEW-Lisbon says Timor solution unstoppable 06:09 a.m. Apr 20, 1999 Eastern
By Terry Friel
JAKARTA, April 20 (Reuters) - Portugal's special envoy to Indonesia said on Tuesday political transition in East Timor was unstoppable and urged pro-Jakarta militias to quit their bloody loyalist campaign and let the people choose their own fate.
``The process in East Timor is irreversable,'' envoy Ana Gomes told Reuters in an interview. ``Some people refuse to accept that, but it is a fact. It is irreversable.''
Dozens of people, mainly civilians, have died recently as Jakarta loyalists escalated their bloody campaign to keep the former Portuguese colony part of Indonesia ahead of a vote on autonomy or independence later this year.
The spiralling unrest follows Jakarta's policy U-turn in January when it abandoned 23 years of opposition to independence and said it might let the territory go if East Timorese rejected an offer of extra autonomy.
In the latest unrest, militias rampaged through Dili on Saturday, killing up to 30 people as troops and police stood by.
The recent deaths and the failure of the more than 15,000 Indonesian troops in the territory to halt the militias' rampage has sparked international outrage and warnings that U.N.-brokered efforts for a peaceful solution could founder.
But Gomes said Jakarta and Lisbon would not let the bloodshed derail the U.N. process leading to a ballot on whether the 800,000 East Timorese remain part of Indonesia or go their own way.
``In the end, some good must result from all this evil,'' she said. ``I'm confident that the two governments have not let themselves be distracted from their objective, which is the need to find a political solution to the problem of East Timor.''
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year. But its rule has never been recognised by the United Nations or much of the world community and has been a blight on Jakarta's international standing.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and his Portuguese counterpart, Jaime Gama, are due to meet in New York late this week to discuss Jakarta's autonomy package.
Indonesia's cabinet on Monday finalised the autonomy plan, which is scheduled to be put to East Timorese in July.
``We are confident that in the meeting...a decisive move towards peace will be achieved,'' Gomes said.
President B.J. Habibie has said he wants the East Timor problem resolved, one way or the other, by January.
Autonomy would give East Timorese their own political system, with their own parliament, parties and elections.
But many analysts and diplomats say the details matter little because East Timorese would overwhelmingly choose independence.
With the upsurge in pro-Jakarta violence, foreign leaders have become increasingly vocal about their concerns and their demands that Indonesia restore peace to allow a fair ballot.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is flying to Indonesia next week for an emergency meeting with Habibie about East Timor, which shares a sea border with northern Australia.
Canberra wants U.N. personnel rushed to East Timor to ``help settle the place down,'' says Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Gomes, while urging reconciliation between rival factions, said those responsible for recent violence must be punished.
``All this aggression committed against the people of East Timor in the defence of integration -- they were...murderers who committed these acts,'' she said.
``Law and order needs to be restored, law and order needs to be respected. These crimes cannot go unpunished.''