Subject: Ali Alatas, Habibie Urge Lawmakers To OK E Timor Independence

Associated Press October 13, 1999

Indonesia Min Urges Lawmakers To OK E Timor Independence

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas Wednesday urged parliament to approve East Timor's independence, saying the country could face economic sanctions if the legislators even delay their decision.

The 700-member People's Consultative Assembly, the country's highest legislative body, is scheduled to vote soon on whether to approve East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in a U.N.-supported referendum on Aug. 30.

Widespread violence by Indonesian forces and pro-Jakarta militias following the vote caused countries around the world to condemn Jakarta and to deploy thousands of Australian-led peacekeeping forces to the territory.

Some Indonesian legislators, soldiers and citizens have condemned the vote and the intervention by the peacekeepers as a violation of the country's sovereignty.

Others have warned that the independence of East Timor could prompt several other rebel groups in this diverse country of 13,000 islands to step up their fight for autonomy.

In urging legislators to approve East Timor's vote, Alatas said Indonesia could be heavily penalized by other countries if the lawmakers simply decide to delay their decision.

"The implications will have a wide impact on Indonesia's international relations and could result in...condemnation by the U.N. Security Council, economic and military sanctions, and so on," Alatas said in a letter to the assembly.

Tuesday, a legislative committee recommended that the assembly be given the choice of approving East Timor's independence or delaying their decision until three conditions have been met:

-Alleged abuses by the peacekeepers have been cleared up;

-The safety of refugees and pro-Indonesian East Timorese has been guaranteed; and

-Portugal, which ruled East Timor before Indonesia invaded it in 1975, removes any claims to the territory from its constitution.

Alatas' letter was a response to one from the legislators on Monday, asking him about the implications of a delay in their decision on granting East Timor independence.

Rejection of East Timor independence will isolate Indonesia; Habibie

JAKARTA, Oct 14 (AFP) - Indonesian President B.J. Habibie on Thursday made an impassioned plea for the national assembly to speedily ratify East Timor's independence vote, saying failure to do so would isolate Indonesia internationally.

"In this atmosphere of global openness and interdependence, it is very difficult for us to stick to the conventional reasoning that the status of East Timor has already been made definite by the MPR (national assembly) in 1978," Habibie said.

He told a plenary session of the MPR that it would be difficult "to reject international claims without facing the risk of being shunned globally," and called on its members to show the world that they upheld human rights.

An MPR team currently preparing an MPR decree on the East Timor question, has met opposition to a straightforward recognition of the results of the August 30 UN-held ballot in East Timor that overwhelmingly favored independence.

The team has come up with two alternate decrees, one delaying recognition of the ballot result until several requirements were first met.

Habibie has come under fire for adding an option of independence to a broad autonomy offer for East Timor in January.

The UN-organized ballot voted almost four to one to reject the autonomy offer.

"The offer of the second option (independence) was decided based on our honest and sincere wish to rapidly settled the East Timor problem," Habibie said.

The East Timor problem, he argued, had since been a source of international dispute from the outset and drained the nation's strength and thoughts for over two decades.

"We want to conduct a national consolidation to overcome various crises ... and to improve ourselves as we enter the first century of the third millennium," he said.

He said Indonesia should respect the choice of the majoirty of the people of east Timor.

"As a nation, we should accept and respect the results of the ballot (in East Timor), because this is in line with the fundamental principle contained in the prelude to the 1945 Constitution that say that freedom is the right of all nations."

He called on the assembly to give its quick official recognition of the results of the East Timor ballot, and allow the former Portuguese colony that Indoensian invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year, to become independent.

"If we do this, we will be able to show the world that Indonesia is part of the international community which is responsible, democratic and upholds human rights."

A dragging delay in the MPR's recognition of the vote could derail United Nations plans to replace with Australian-led International Force for East Timor with an interim UN administration.

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