|Subject: RT: Jakarta's approval still needed for
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 11:06:43 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Jakarta's approval still needed for E.Timor accord 03:21 a.m. Apr 24, 1999 Eastern
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, April 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia and Portugal have agreed to hold a historic vote in disputed East Timor that could lead to independence for the territory of 800,000 people that Jakarta annexed in 1976.
The Indonesian Cabinet now has to give its final approval to the plan, mediated by the United Nations, that is to be signed in New York on May 5.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who announced the agreement on Friday in the presence of the Indonesian and Portuguese foreign ministers, said Jakarta had to approve two new documents that deal with security arrangements for the vote and how it is to be carried out.
East Timor has been racked by violence since Indonesia, in a policy switch after more than 20 years, said in January it would be willing to quit the former Portuguese colony if the Timorese rejected autonomy within Indonesia.
Most countries in the world never recognised Indonesia's annexation of East Timor and voted in the United Nations to make Portugal administrator for the territory it abandoned after its own 1975 anti-fascist revolution.
The United Nations is to organise the vote, now expected in early August, on an autonomy plan Jakarta has prepared, which is expected to be rejected. But Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas excluded any U.N. peacekeeping operation, which includes military personnel.
He said some civilian police could be involved in the U.N. contingent that will be comprised primarily of election organisers. But he said it was up to Indonesian security forces to ``keep law and order and peace.''
Pro-Indonesian militias opposed to East Timor independence have been blamed for much of the violence, which has continued despite an peace pact rival factions signed on Wednesday.
``Peace and stability are vital to East Timor,'' Annan said after calling on all parties to the agreement to ``fulfill their obligations without delay.''
Portugal's foreign minister, Jaime Gama, questioned the viability of the peace agreement, saying it did not absolve Indonesia from disarming the militia if outside peacekeepers were excluded.
``For the effectiveness of these agreements it is crucial to restore (peace) in the territory,'' Gama said. That meant disarming the militia and not giving them weapons or other means ``to counteract the spirit of the negotiations.''
Most Timorese are believed to favour independence after a 23-year campaign. But the bloodshed, which intensified in the last two weeks, has cast a shadow over the ballot and any transition to independence.
The topic is expected to be the main issue addressed when Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday meets Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, Alatas and army chief General Wiranto, who negotiated Wednesday's peace pact.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta, a leading independence activist, at another Friday U.N. news conference, said Indonesia's army was not to be trusted.
Calling Wiranto ``the man responsible for orchestrating the violence in East Timor,'' he said this was like ``expecting that Jack the Ripper would in London broker peace.''
He also expressed concern that Xanana Gusmao, the Timorese independence leader, now under house arrest, may not be freed until after the vote and that up to 200,000 Indonesia migrants would be allowed to vote.
Alatas said a date for Gusmao's release had not been discussed yet but renewed Jakarta's promise to grant him ``a special pardon.''