Subject: ABC: Pressure mounts for peacekeepers in East Timor
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 1999 01:10:15 +1000

ABC - The World Today

Pressure mounts for peacekeepers in East Timor

The World Today - Friday, September 3, 1999 12:10

COMPERE: But we start the program this Friday, as we have most days of this week, in East Timor. Overnight murderous militia mobs hacked to death two more locally engaged UN staff, Indonesian police allowing them to complete their nasty work by burning down the houses of the dead men as the families fled in terror.

Little wonder that international pressure is mounting for Indonesia to accept that an international peacekeeping force is the only way to bring stability to East Timor. It's widely expected that the militia violence can only increase over this weekend, when the results of the ballot are likely to be announced. There's intense diplomatic activity today in anticipation of an overwhelming vote in favour of independence.

In Canberra our chief political correspondent, Matt Peacock:

MATT PEACOCK: The Prime Minister, John Howard, on commercial radio 3AW today echoed the hints from his Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, that Indonesia is coming under considerable pressure to accept a peacekeeping force sooner rather than later.

JOHN HOWARD: Once the ballot is over then it may well be that there is a different attitude on the part of the Indonesian Government, and there already have been some indications to that effect. But this thing has to be handled intelligently.

We are, of course, following it day by day, hour by hour - minute by minute almost. - and Alexander Downer has been in regular contact with his Indonesian counterpart. So overall we remain hopeful.

We are disturbed at the violence that has been apparent over the last 48 hours. We regret deeply the loss of life of apparently three UN workers. We remain concerned but not alarmed about the safety of Australians. I don't want to overstate that, but I don't want any Australians to think that we are in any way complacent.

MATT PEACOCK: Indeed, says Mr Howard, he made his views on that point very clear to President Habibie.

JOHN HOWARD: I have personally made it very clear to the Indonesian President in the discussion I had with him last weekend that if any Australian lives were lost or any injury were done to Australians, that would have horrendous consequences for the relationship between our two countries. I am worried about them, but I've been worried about them for a number of weeks.

We hope that the latest indications that the Indonesian authorities are taking more seriously their responsibilities continue, that there is a greater determination by the Indonesians to bring the situation under control. They have a responsibility to protect lives, to protect unarmed UN personnel, unarmed UN police.

MATT PEACOCK: And if they don't, says Mr Howard, then Australia is prepared to evacuate its citizens.

JOHN HOWARD: We are ready to do so. I do not believe the situation has reached that point and it would be alarmist and inappropriate of me to suggest it has reached that point. But we are ready and we will of course execute any evacuation plan if that becomes necessary. I don't believe it will, I hope it doesn't, and it's in everybody's interest that the situation be kept fully under control.

COMPERE: The Prime Minister, John Howard, with our chief political correspondent, Matt Peacock, in Canberra.

© 1999 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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