outlines three point plan to stabilise East Timor
also: Australian PM warns more tension ahead in East Timor
Three point plan to stabilise East Timor
DILI, East Timor, Oct 9 (AFP) - The head of the multinational force in East Timor on Saturday outlined a three-part plan to stabilize East Timor and integrate militia fighters and the anti-Indonesia resistance into a new government.
Major General Peter Cosgrove offered pro and anti-independence fighters "a golden opportunity" to take part in a "progressive laying down of arms" as the first part of his strategy.
"This will be linked to a progressive and selective introduction into government service of those elements which by their trust in laying down of arms have shown that they wish to participate in the nation building that must ensue," he said.
He said the third part of his plan involved "progressive reconciliation between those warring parties who are in fact at the heart of the dispute".
Cosgrove said he presented his proposals to pro-independence Falintil chief of staff Taur Matan Ruak in a meeting on Friday, but had as yet received no response.
He said that Interfet was also offering pro-Indonesia militia members a chance to escape conflict and join a new nation.
"Our hand is extended out fully to the miltia," he said.
But he warned Interfet would not lower its vigilance against hostile militia or militia attacks and would push ahead with talks with the Falintil even if the militia decided not to join the talks.
Interfet has been criticized in some quarters for attempting to disarm resistance fighters in some areas which are not secured by the international forces.
On Friday Cosgrove told Australia's ABC television he wanted the militia members to throw down their arms and return to East Timor.
"It's a sincere offer and it's one that acknowledges that they too have a case within society here," he said. "But there is a fundamental first principle and they must disarm."
Cosgrove said he had made an offer to the militias through the Indonesian military, which is widely blamed for setting up and arming the militias.
Most militia members fled across the border into Indonesian West Timor after the arrival of the Interfet troops ended their murderous rampage that followed an August 30 vote for independence.
Militia leaders in the Indonesian province have threatened to launch a guerrilla campaign against the Australian-led force. This week saw the first firefight between peacekeepers and the militiamen.
Indonesian authorities say more than 250,000 people crossed into West Timor last month after the pro-Indonesia militias began their murder spree.
The majority of the refugees, now housed in camps where they are vulnerable to attack by the same militias, want to return to East Timor and the UN has begun their repatriation.
Australian PM warns more tension ahead in East Timor
BRISBANE, Australia, Oct 9 (AFP) - Prime Minister John Howard warned Saturday that Australians should expect increased tensions in East Timor following a confrontation between multinational peacekeepers and militia members this week.
Addressing his party faithful in the northern state of Queensland, Howard said the situation in East Timor could turn nasty.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again today, this is a dangerous mission," Howard told 600 Liberal Party delegates.
"So far we have been spared the awful trauma of heavy casualties but we can't, as a community, lose sight of the possibility that things could turn nasty."
Two Australians were injured and two pro-Indonesian militia members killed during a firefight this week near the border with West Timor, the Indonesian province where many militia members fled after the Australian-led security force landed in East Timor earlier this month.
Major General Peter Cosgrove, the head of the international force in East Timor (Interfet), extended an olive branch to militia groups Friday, saying they were welcome to come home to East Timor as long as they disarmed.
"It's a sincere offer and it's one that acknowledges that they too have a case within society here," he told Australia's ABC television. "But there is a fundamental first principle and they must disarm."
During his speech Saturday, Howard stressed again that Australia's role in East Timor was not in any way meant to undermine Indonesia.
Australia had been a "good friend" to Indonesia in the past, extending a helping hand on a number of occasions, most recently during the Asian economic crisis.
"We didn't come to this issue out of a deep-seated hostility to Indonesia," Howard said.
"We are (in East Timor) not as an act of aggression against the Indonesian state. We are there as an act of goodwill and peace enforcement to assist the implementation of the clearly expressed will of the people of East Timor."
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