September 1999: Military rejects Australian troops; East
Timor conflicting signals as Indonesian Foreign Minister denies
conditions placed on peacekeeping mission
Stephen Fidler, Michael Littlejohns, Gwen Robinson)
Jakarta, Auckland, United Nations
military and parliament yesterday rejected Australia as a
member of a future peacekeeping force in East Timor, jeopardising
the civilian government's concession to let in troops unconditionally.
armed forces reject Australia as part of any peacekeeping
troops," said Brig Gen Sudrajat, the Indonesian military spokesman.
said Indonesia "wants the majority of the force to come from
Asean" - the Association of South East Asian Nations.
leaders objected not only to Australia but also to troops
from the US, New Zealand and Portugal, countries they deemed
too biased in favour of pro-independence groups in East Timor.
hours after the military statement, Ali Alatas, foreign minister,
flatly denied that Indonesia put any conditions on a UN peacekeeping
mission. "We are putting no conditionalities so it is all
up to the United Nations to prepare the composition," Mr Alatas
said as he arrived at the UN to head negotiations on the composition
of the force.
leaders have insisted on Australia's participation but all
parties in the talks know that any UN mission would be doomed
if it faced a stand-off with Indonesian troops on the ground.
"Indonesia and Australia have good relations and we did not
come here to prevent any country from participating," Mr Alatas
said. But he added that it was up to states themselves to
consider whether "their presence would exacerbate the situation
or improve it".
contradictory statements illustrated a split among Indonesian
authorities - which surfaced last week and gave rise to coup
rumours - over East Timor and threats of economic sanctions
by the international community.
B.J. Habibie seemed to have overrun military objections by
inviting foreign troops on Sunday, and General Wiranto, his
military commander, appeared eager to dispel suggestions he
had sidelined Mr Habibie. However, only Australia has troops
ready to move. By objecting to Australian troops, Indonesia's
powerful military seemed intent on buying time for their soldiers
in East Timor, warding off sanctions until they finish a scorched
earth policy that has left hundreds, possibly thousands, dead.
US, Britain and Australia, and Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general,
rejected Indonesia's right to influence the force's composition.
Asked about the military's stance, President Bill Clinton
said today: "We do not understand that to be the position.
So far no trouble has been made and we hope there won't be
added: "I do not believe they should be able to dictate the
composition." A New Zealand official said: "There are differing
centres of power in the Indonesian system, different messages
coming from each of them, but overall, we see steadily growing
momentum towards getting the international force into East
on the peacekeeping force were adjourned last night by the
UN Security Council. Talks were not scheduled for today but
Peter van Walsum, Council president, said a resolution would
be circulated "fairly soon". John Howard, Australia's prime
minister, said Canberra had been asked by the secretary general
to lead the force. There has been an upsurge of Indonesian
protest demonstrations against Australia, which diplomats
presume have been partially organised by the military.
Habibie's agreement to let in peacekeepers pushed talk of
sanctions off the agenda at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation
(Apec) summit in New Zealand but Sandy Berger, the US national
security adviser, said no aid should be forthcoming until
peacekeepers set foot in East Timor. EU foreign ministers
also agreed yesterday to impose a four-month embargo on arms
sales to Indonesia.
reporting by Gwen Robinson and Stephen Fidler in Auckland
and Michael Littlejohns at the UN in New York
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