Subject: Indonesia recognizes East Timor independence vote

Indonesia recognizes East Timor independence vote

JAKARTA, Oct 20 (AFP) - Indonesia's national assembly early on Wednesday ratified the results of East Timor's independence vote, clearing the way for the territory's freedom from the country that invaded it in 1975.

Assembly chairman Amien Rais said the historic decree recognizing the August 30 vote was cleared by representatives of all factions of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and were approved by the floor.

No vote was taken.

Passage of the decree, which will pave way for the takeover by an interim United Nations administration in the former Portuguese colony, had been delayed from Tuesday because of a vote on President B.J. Habibie's performance in office.

Habibie lost the vote in part because of scathing criticism from almost all sides of the political spectrum for his allowing the UN-conducted vote, which resulted in an overwhelming four to one vote to break with Indonesia.

The members of the MPR, who were scheduled to vote for a new Indonesian president on Wednesday, called his move rash and ill thought out against a background of rumbling separatist movements in other provinces.

Habibie had earlier urged the assembly not to delay ratification of the vote, warning that Indonesia faced further international isolation if it did.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the territory a year later in a move never recognized by the UN.

For the next 23 years the East Timor issue became Jakarta's foreign policy albatross, staining its role as a leading developing nation.

Under the terms of an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, the territory's old colonial masters, reached at the UN in New York on May 5, the MPR was due to nullify a decree enacted in 1978 formalizing the integration of East Timor as Indonesia's 27th province.

The new decree passed Wednesday will recognize the results of the August 30 referendum. A transitional UN administration will run East Timor prior to full independence, preparations for which are already under way.

In Dili, the capital of East Timor, an AFP reporter said the remaining Indonesian troops has been loading their belongings on landing craft at the port in apparent anticipation of the formal recognition of the territory's independence.

Discussions were also underway in Dili betwween the UN and a 31-man Indonesian task force, which arrived at the weekend, on details of the handover of Indonesian state property to the UN adminstration.

A UN Mission in East Timor spokesman told AFP in Dili: "There's some suggestion that the final element of the TNI (Indonesian armed forces) may be withdrawn soon after the vote.

"We'll remain in close contact with the TNI commander in Dili. He will advise us to the time of the withdrawal."

Some 1,500 Indonesian troops remain in the territory.

A wave of post-referendum violence by pro-Indonesia militiamen prompted a UN-mandated multinational force to be sent to East Timor to restore order. Its deployment has further fuelled Indonesian anger against Habibie.

Student street protestors have tagged him "the father of disintegration" and the military has expressed fears the vote will open the door wider to determined separatist movements in the provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya, leading to the "Balkanization" of Indonesia.

One of the seven chapters of the new East Timor draft decree said it would "not invalidate the actions or all forms of state honor to fighters and officials given during the period that the East Timor territory was united with the Republic of Indonesia according to national laws".

It also stated that recognition of the poll results would not diminish the rights of East Timorese who opted to remain loyal to Indonesia.

The draft also tasked the new president with providing protection, in cooperation with international agencies, for East Timorese following the ballot, and assigned him or her to take the necessary legal steps regarding the citizenship of pro-Indonesia East Timorese.

It also asked the president to work with the lower house to take further constitutional steps to settle the East Timor question.

Kofi Annan hails move on East Timor by Indonesian assembly

WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday hailed a decision of the Indonesian national assembly to ratify the results of East Timor's independence vote August 30.

"It means we have to move from transition to independence," Annan told an audience at the World Bank here.

The assembly recognized the results of the UN-organized poll in which residents of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Jakarta, which seized the territory in 1975.

The vote prompted a wave of looting and violence in East Timor by pro-Indonesia militiamen and led to the deployment of an Australian-led international force.

Annan on Tuesday said East Timor would be likely be administered by the United Nations, backed by some 9,000 foreign troops.

"Eventually there will be another election to choose their own leaders," Annan said of the East Timorese.

He added that UN forces would probably withdraw "in a time frame of two to three years," although the pullout could go faster.

------ Clinton "welcomes" Indonesian decision on East Timor

WASHINGTON, Oct 20 (AFP) - US President Bill Clinton welcomed the decision by Indonesia's National Assembly to ratify the decree giving independence to East Timor.

"I welcome the historic decision," Clinton said Tuesday in a statement, adding that the assembly's "unequivocal action shows respect for the will of the people of East Timor."

"It is also an important step forward in Indonesia's own democratic transformation, which the United States strongly supports," he added.

Clinton cautioned that "much work remains to make sure that East Timor's transition succeeds," Clinton said.

Indonesia, East Timor, the United Nations and Portugal are all expected to be involved in the transition, in which East Timor ceases to be Indonesia's "27th province."

"And Indonesia must take the necessary steps to ensure the safe return of all displaced East Timorese, including allowing the international community full access to displaced persons in West Timor," Clinton added.

"The United States is committed to helping the people of East Timor not only obtain the legal recognition of independence but also develop the institutions they need to thrive as an independent state," he said

"We are equally determined to help Indonesia achieve its goal of lasting democracy and prosperity. Today's action will bring both goals closer to fruition," Clinton concluded.

In an earlier statement, US State Department spokesman James Foley also welcomed the vote in Indonesia and promised US cooperation in facilitating East Timor's transition to independence.

"The challenges ahead include restoring security in East Timor, investigating the violence and preventing further bloodshed by disarming and disbanding the militia groups," Foley added.

East Timor's referendum August 30 supported independence from Indonesia which invaded it in 1975, annexing it the following year in a move the United Nations never recognized.

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