Fri, 05 Mar 1999

U.S. supports 'free and fair RI elections'

JAKARTA (JP): Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on Thursday that her country fully supports a fair and peaceful election in Indonesia, and hinted it would not support a specific candidate.

The state secretary said together with the international community the U.S. was ready to provide assistance to help Indonesia as it works to ensure the elections are credible and honest.

"The United States does not support any particular candidates but we do support the process that we hope will be peaceful, free and fair during and after the election, in which of course the people's voice is heard, and the popular mandate for political and economic reform is recognized," Albright said during a joint media conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas at the latter's office.

She pointed out that her country was also ready to assist Indonesia during this critical time as it tries to achieve economic recovery.

Albright said her discussions with the country's leaders would be mainly focused on the general election, the country's political and economic reforms, and East Timor.

"This is a critical moment in the history of one of the world's great nations," she insisted.

Albright and her entourage arrived at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport on a special flight at about 5.35 p.m for a two-day visit. According to Antara, this visit also caused traffic congestion as she was being escorted from the airport to Alatas' office.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was tightly guarded during her talks with Alatas. Apart from U.S. security guards, several police personnel were deployed inside the building.

On Friday, the state secretary is scheduled to meet with President B.J. Habibie at Merdeka Palace. This will be followed by a meeting with Minister of Defense and Security/Armed Forces (ABRI) Commander Gen. Wiranto.

Before leaving Indonesia, she also plans to meet with jailed East Timorese rebel leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Amien Rais and chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Albright praised Indonesia's new offer to grant either wide- ranging autonomy or independence to East Timor. However, she also expressed her great concern about continued violence and fighting among the East Timorese and the adverse economic impact of this during the transition period in the territory.

Alatas reiterated the government view that ABRI has never armed any pro-integration groups in East Timor, as alleged by their rivals. He argued that as the country is even offering independence, the government has no interest in inciting violence among groups there.

"Of course we do not deny that some of these groups, in their fighting, apart from using machetes, or arrows ... turn out to ...have ... firearms, but these are definitely not firearms supplied by the Armed Forces," Alatas said. (prb)