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Thursday, 16 September 1999

Habibie: Indonesia Has No Objection to Australia Leading Multinational Forces

Jakarta, Kompas Online

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie said the government has no objection to Australia leading the multinational forces in East Timor because the country is not at hostility with any one.

Information Minister Mohammad Yunus made the statement to reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. "It is true that Australia will lead, and Malaysia as the deputy. Welcome. Essentially Indonesia has no hostility against any country," said the minister.

Separately, the Indonesian armed forces also said it can accept Australia in charge if the U.N. Security Council decided to appoint Australia to lead the international peacekeeping forces into East Timor.

As part of the international community, Indonesia has to have faith in the U.N. decision since it has agreed that the U.N. has full authority to arrange the forces. The statement was made by army chief Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo and military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudradjat.

So far, five countries have registered to join the U.N. multinational forces _ Australia, Malaysia, South Korea and Brunei Darussalam.

Japan said it will help the financing while other European countries are still looking into options. The main option of the dispatch of peacekeeping forces is to restore law and order in East Timor.

The consideration for multinational forces rather than peacekeeping forces is due to speedier delivery. It takes two weeks the longest to send multinational forces.

In addition, multinational forces are to be financed by each participant country

"Our foreign minister has worked hard to not have Australia. But since everything is in the hands of the U.N., the Security Council, it cannot happen," said coordinating minister for politics and security Feisal Tanjung.

He said the government knows well about the rising sentiments against Australia. "This is among the risks that the Australian contingent will be faced with."

Asked about the role of the Indonesian armed forces in the presence of multinational forces, minister Yunus said the Indonesian soldiers will act as liaison officers and observers.

The minister said martial law would remain in place until a U.N. resolution on the multinational forces in East Timor is issued.

The U.N. forces are expected to be in East Timor after the November convention of the People's Consultative Assembly, the country's highest legislative body that has yet to endorse the outcome of the East Timor independence vote.

Army chief Subagyo said the Indonesian armed forces are ready to become part of the U.N. forces if asked.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudradjat said that Indonesian people should not be angered by the entry of Australian forces into East Timor.

"At the end of November the latest, East Timor will have separated from Indonesia. Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said Indonesia demands no condition for the presence of multinational forces in East Timor," said Sudradjat.

Marzuki Darusman, head of the National Commission of Human Rights said he believed Australian forces are technically in position to come to East Timor quickly.

But Darusman said Australia should also heed Indonesian public opinion and sensitivity about their neighboring country. "That also has to be explained openly to Australia," he said.

Darusman said the Indonesian armed forces itself has to take measure to improve its image in East Timor. "The armed forces should start helping organize refugee camps in East Timor and East Nusatenggara," he said.

But Munir, coordinating of the committee of missing people and victims of violence, said the appointment of Australia as leader of the U.N. multinational forces into East Timor is a political compromise.

Munir said there should be improvement in Indonesia-Australia relationship to make sure that the U.N. multinational forces will not face troubles.

"The Australian government has to make it clear that its mission is purely humanitarian in order not to create new tension in East Timor," said Munir.(*)

Source : Kompas, September 16, 1999

1997, Embassy of Indonesia, Ottawa-Canada
Last Updated: September 16, 1999 by Dd.

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