Mon, 18 Sep 2000

Cohen arrives to press govt over militias in West Timor

JAKARTA (JP): United States Defense Secretary William Cohen arrived here on Sunday evening for meetings with top Indonesian officials in which he is expected to press the government to take firm action against militias operating in West Timor.

Cohen touched down at Halim Perdanakusuma airport having traveled on a U.S. military plane.

Cohen is due to meet separately with President Abdurrahman Wahid, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Defense Minister Mahfud MD on Monday before flying off on the next leg of his six country tour of Asia. It is expected to be his last as defense secretary.

His arrival here comes in the wake of the killing of three UN aid workers in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara, on Sept. 6.

The United Nations Security Council has issued a strong resolution demanding the Indonesian government deal with the refugee and militia problem across the East Timor border.

Before arriving in Jakarta, Cohen said in Singapore on Sunday that Washington wanted Indonesia to eliminate the militias and make a commitment to the safety and security of refugees.

"We want to see the violence stopped in East Timor. We want to see a commitment on the part of the Indonesian government to the safety and security of the refugees who are currently in West Timor, and compliance with the Security Council resolutions," he said as quoted by AFP.

Cohen said he supported Wahid's efforts to restore economic stability and steer Indonesia through a turbulent transition to democracy.

"But we want to see the militias eliminated," he told reporters aboard the USS Germantown, a warship that is docked in the city state for naval exercises with Singapore.


Separately in Kuta, Bali, the East Timorese pro-Indonesia group Untas condemned the violence in Atambua.

"We regret and condemn the violence which left a former militia Olivio Maruk, UN officials and several residents dead," Untas chairman Dominggus Soares, accompanied by former militia commander Eurico Guterres, told journalists in a media briefing on Saturday.

Soares said his organization, which consists of former East Timor militia and scholars, had renounced the use of violence in its struggle.

He said a solution for East Timor could only be reached through reconciliation.

Guterres also condemned the violence and denied any involvement.

"I arrived in Atambua when the incident had happened. I just heard from reports," Guterres said.

Guterres also refuted accusations that militia groups had been hampering the repatriation of refugees to East Timor.

He said that the some 100,000 refugees still in West Timor were families of pro-Indonesian groups. (zen/jun)