September 1999: Habibie bows to pressure for peace
president accepts need for UN mission to halt East Timor violence
(front page, first section)
president yesterday invited United Nations peacekeeping troops
to enter East Timor in a dramatic reversal of policy. But
he failed to indicate whether they could enter in time to
stop further slaughter. "I have made the decision to give
our approval to a peace-keeping force together with the Indonesian
military to maintain the security of East Timor," B.J. Habibie
said in a televised speech, yielding to international pressure
and threats of sanctions.
many people have lost their lives. We cannot wait any longer,"
he said. Indonesia's powerful military, which is seen as having
tolerated or orchestrated the violence, said it supported
US offered a cautious welcome to Mr Habibie's statement, which
came after repeated rejections of offers to send in UN peacekeepers.
But Sandy Berger, President Bill Clinton's national security
adviser, said: "I think that one cannot be sanguine about
the situation until we actually have a peacekeeping force
that is deployed in East Timor."
said US military and other sanctions imposed in recent days
on Indonesia would be reviewed as time passed, "if this unfolds
as we hope it does". John Howard, the Australian prime minister,
called Mr Habibie's decision a "tremendous step forward" and
reiterated Australia's commitment to leading the UN-mandated
force. Australian defence planners would be sent immediately
to New York to co-ordinate with the UN, he said.
said 250 of its Gurkha troops would be among the first UN
troops to arrive.
Habibie said he had informed Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general,
of his decision minutes earlier and would send foreign minister
Ali Alatas to the Security Council in New York at once to
gave no hint about the likely arrival date of such troops,
however, nor the form of co-operation with the Indonesian
army. The military has openly supported the pro-Indonesian
militia in their attacks, which began after East Timorese
voted overwhelmingly for independence last month. "It depends
on the UN secretary-general," said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, an
adviser to Mr Habibie, on the timing of deployment. "If he
says now, it's now."
military spokesman indicated earlier, however, that foreign
troops would not arrive before Indonesia's highest legislative
body, the People's Consultative Assembly, endorsed last month's
referendum that showed 78.5 per cent of the East Timorese
in favour of independence.
would make yesterday's gesture an empty one, as UN troops
had always been expected to take over from the Indonesian
military after that vote. Mr Habibie said the peacekeepers
should be drawn from "friendly" countries, raising the possibility
of protracted negotiations.
kind of peacekeeping force will it be?" asked an Asian diplomat.
"Indonesia could set countless conditions. It seems that Australia
is not welcome in such a force." Date of troops' arrival,
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