Subject: RT: Resistance wants troops out before vote
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 09:22:12 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

E.Timor resistance wants troops out before vote 07:02 a.m. Mar 18, 1999 Eastern

By Stephen Weeks

HONG KONG, March 18 (Reuters) - East Timor resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta said on Thursday Indonesian troops should withdraw from the territory before it votes on its future in July.

``I will publicly oppose it, denounce it, if the U.N., the international community, wants to impose a vote on the future of the country with Indonesian troops on the ground,'' Ramos-Horta, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, told a news conference.

Ramos-Horta said he was concerned that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had failed to mention an agenda for Indonesia troop withdrawal when U.N.-sponsored talks between Indonesia and Portugal cleared the way this month for a vote on whether they want autonomy within Indonesia.

The autonomy package is not scheduled to be completed until April. Rejection of the proposal could open the way for independence for the 800,000 people in the restive territory.

``He did not talk about a calendar for Indonesian troop withdrawals, for the disarming of the armed bands. The U.N., the international community, must demand at least partial withdrawal of Indonesian troops,'' he said.

The Indonesian military did not have to withdraw completely but the number of remaining troops ``must be proportional to a U.N. multinational force on the ground'' in East Timor, Ramos-Horta said.

Holding the vote while the Indonesian army and pro-Jakarta para-military groups were still in East Timor in strength would be courting disaster, he said.

``If the U.N. simply relies on the will of the Indonesian side and pushes ahead with this vote, bloodshed is almost certain because the Indonesian army will be there, the paramilitary will be there, and their interest is to disrupt the vote, to intimidate the people.''

Ramos-Horta said he had discussed the matter with East Timor guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao on Wednesday and they were in full agreement.

``We oppose a vote without Indonesian troops first being out, the paramilitary must be disarmed,'' he said.

Gusmao was moved from prison to house arrest in Jakarta last month after serving five years of a 20-year sentence for leading armed resistance to Indonesia's occupation of the territory.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony near northern Australia in 1975 and then annexed it. An estimated 200,000 Timorese died in fighting or the ensuing disease and famine.

Ramos-Horta said despite the dramatic change in Indonesian policy on East Timor this year, he was sceptical about whether Jakarta was really committed to leaving.

``There are dark forces at play in Indonesia today who are not interested in any consolidation of democratic reforms. Democratic reforms, rule of law, that would be detrimental to their economic and political interests,'' he said.

He pointed the finger at ousted president Suharto and his entourage as well as army intelligence units.

``According to our sources, in the last two months US$5 million has been spent by army intelligence and by the Suharto clique in distributing guns (in East Timor).''

He did not elaborate.

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, who replaced Suharto, made the reversal on East Timor this year, saying he wanted the conflict settled by next January. If East Timor rejected autonomy, he said he would consider full independence.

Ramos-Horta said there would be no civil war in East Timor if it gained independence because the resistance would not persecute or discriminate against anyone.

``We do not agree with a war crimes tribunal in East Timor, as we also believe a truth and reconciliation commission on a South African model is not applicable to the reality of East Timor,'' he said.

``One reason is that those truly responsible will be gone and we will only be trying the small fish,'' he added.

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