Fri, 15 Sep 2000

Susilo, Gusmao, de Mello meet to discuss E. Timor

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): Indonesia's top political and security officials held closed-door meetings here with East Timor leader Jose Alexandre Xanana Gusmao and United Nations officials late on Thursday.

Held at the Sheraton Laguna Hotel in Nusa Dua, 15 kilometers south of here, the formal talks only began at 11.30 p.m. local time after dinner. They had already met for an informal meeting which took place between 8 p.m. and 10.30 p.m.

Until the formal talks began, the full agenda of the meeting remained unknown.

Leader of Indonesian delegation Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the meeting was aimed at "finding a comprehensive settlement to the East Timor refugee issue". But Gusmao hinted that the talks also touched on cross-border incidents.

It was the first encounter between Indonesian government officials on the one hand and East Timorese leaders and UN officers on the other since an attack left three UN High Commissioner for Refugees workers in Atambua dead last week.

Apart from Susilo, the Indonesian delegation comprised Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S. and National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo.

Also attending the talks were the head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Sergio Vieira de Mello, senior UNTAET officers, the deputy commander of UN peacekeepers in East Timor and Gusmao who had traveled to Bali to meet the delegation, the UN and officials in East Timor said.

Ahead of the bilateral meeting, Susilo and other security and political ministers held talks with East Timor prointegration leaders at the Padma Hotel.

Former pro-Jakarta East Timor militia leader Eurico Guterres told reporters after the meeting that the government offered East Timorese (refugees) a vacant island to live on.

"I accept the offer as a token of appreciation from the government of Indonesia. But I don't know what sort of island it will be. I don't know either how we (East Timor refugees) can develop the island into a new province in the future," Guterres said.

Foreign spy

The meetings in Bali came hours after Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. hinted at the possible involvement of foreign countries in the recent rioting in Atambua, a town close to the border with East Timor.

"We have preliminary evidence on the possibility of a foreign intelligence operation launched by a certain country, which is connected with the incident," he told a press conference in Jakarta.

He added the government's thorough investigation into the attack would continue and its results would be announced to the public.

Mahfud said the government had lodged a note of protest to UNTAET over alleged vote rigging during the Aug. 30 ballot in East Timor last year but it remains unanswered by the UN authority in the territory.

In response to an alleged foreign role in the Atambua case, Maj. Gen. Ferry Tinggogoy, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives Commission on defense and foreign affairs, called on the government to take firm action in dealing with foreign countries, including Australia, which supported the recent UN resolution on the Atambua case.

Meanwhile, Udayana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, who oversees Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara, said the military would investigate the possible involvement of Australian intelligence in the Atambua killings.

"We still cannot confirm (Australian involvement). But we will go ahead with the investigation of indications of foreign intervention in the case," Kiki said as quoted by Antara.

Kiki also said the military is working closely with UNTAET in probing the deaths of the international workers.

The general played down a report of a massive exodus of local people and East Timorese refugees from Atambua following an increase in the activities of the pro-Indonesian militias in the regency.

In a related development, some 80 health workers assigned to help East Timorese refugees have left the province following the incident last week.

Valens Sili Tupen, chief of the health ministry's office in Belu, said the health workers, some of whom were physicians, were forced to go back home because of the tension before and after the incident. (yac/rms/prb/zen)