Subject: Steady Stream Of Intl Visitors Helps E Timor - Diplomats

Dow Jones Newswires October 11, 1999

Steady Stream Of Intl Visitors Helps E Timor - Diplomats

By JEREMY WAGSTAFF

JAKARTA -- Western ministers or senior officials are keeping up a steady stream of visits to East Timor and Indonesian West Timor, in part to help protect thousands of East Timorese refugees, Jakarta-based diplomats said.

Olivier Chambard, First Secretary at the French Embassy in Jakarta, told Dow Jones Newswires that Charles Josselin, French minister for cooperation and humanitarian assistance, was currently in Dili, the capital of East Timor. He's due to visit the West Timor capital of Kupang later Tuesday.

The visit to Indonesia was added at the end of an Asian tour that included the Philippines and Cambodia because of the situation in Timor, Chambard said. While acknowledging the trip to Kupang was to show concern at the plight of the refugees, he said Josselin had also stressed in talks with Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie that Indonesia could benefit from visits to the camps. "It could also help them to have high-level visitors," he said.

Indonesia has been blamed for at least tacit involvement in the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese in the wake of a United Nations referendum, which resulted heavily in favor of independence from Indonesia. Up to a third of the territory's 850,000 population are now outside East Timor, many of them against their will.

Josselin is the fourth minister or senior official to visit Timor island in recent weeks. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Harold Koh led a six-man delegation to the island earlier this month. Koh said during his visit that the refugees were living in fear of pro-Jakarta militias and their Indonesian military backers.

Meanwhile, Portugal's high commissioner for transitional assistance to East Timor, Vitor Melicias, is currently in East Timor to oversee deployment of about 80 humanitarian workers, including firemen, doctors and nurses. He won't be visiting West Timor for diplomatic reasons.

Portugal's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Luis Amado visited East Timor late last month. Under an U.N. agreement with Indonesia, Portugal won't deploy its 1,000-man contingent of an international peacekeeping force until Indonesia formally gives up sovereignty of East Timor, expected later this month. Portugal was East Timor's colonial ruler until the Indonesian invasion in 1975.

Portugal's de facto ambassador in Indonesia, Ana Gomez, said the visits weren't a coincidence. "There's been a clear common effort to stress the importance the world attaches to the situation in...Timor," she said.

Gomez said the visits appeared to have had an impact: the Indonesian military has guaranteed the safety of more than 250,000 East Timorese in West Timor, and will assist those who want to return home to do so.


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