/** reg.easttimor: 2715.0 **/

** Topic: Desperate diplomatic effort: Chinese would veto peace force for E.Ti **
** Written 11:31 PM Sep 5, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: Desperate diplomatic effort: Chinese would veto peace force for E.Timor
The Guardian [UK]
Monday September 6, 1999

Chinese would veto peace force for East Timor

John Gittings in Jakarta

A desperate diplomatic effort has been launched to persuade Jakarta to accept some form of international intervention in East Timor, where it is feared that a week of killings since Monday's independence vote in the Indonesian territory could swell into massacres.

An informal coalition of foreign governments is hoping - against the odds - to find some formula for an armed contingent that would not offend Indonesian pride and could be put in place very quickly.

Nobody seems to be suggesting a large force. Diplomats insist that China would veto a fully fledged force and that Asian countries such as Malaysia would be unhappy. The same applies even more strongly to any scheme for "peace enforcement".

Australia said yesterday even its proposal to the United Nations to send a small peacekeeping force had drawn Indonesian objections.

"I can say at this stage," said the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, "[that] the Indonesians are quite resistant to having any armed foreign presence in East Timor."

"We remain willing to participate in a constructive fashion" in a peacekeeping operation, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, said yesterday, "but you cannot go in ... without that country 's approval".

In New York yesterday the UN spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said that a small unit such as Australia has proposed could be put together quickly if the security council agreed. But it would not be practical, he said, to assemble "a peacekeeping force from scratch".

Diplomats in the territory's capital, Dili, reported back to their governments that the situation was one of "authorised anarchy", and called for urgent action to stop the excesses of the pro-Jakarta militias, operating under the patronage of the army.

"There is now a concerted effort to turn over as much territory as possible to the militias", said one observer, "and the only way we are going to stop that is by a peacekeeping force."

Among the Jakarta public, concern at the effect on Indonesia's image is offset by resentment of foreign criticism.

Indonesian media reported some of the violence in Dili, but also reflected the popular ambivalence about the government's decision to hold the independence referendum: many Indonesians resent the amount of state money spent over the years on East Timor, yet feel Jakarta should not abandon its stake in the place.

The investment is not just economic but also human. The media have given prominent coverage to the views of army veterans of the 25-year campaign to pacify East Timor.

"What do our medals mean if East Timor is independent?" asked one veteran. One television channel quoted a widow whose husband had been killed in the campaign.

"We should not have let East Timor go," she said. "Thousands have died ... Of my husband, only his name remains."

The press reported yesterday that national political figures had accepted the ballot result with an air of despondency.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, who leads the party that won Junbe's national election, the PDI-P, said she was "very sad."

Gus Dur, founder of the Muslim National Awakening Party (PKB), said Indonesia should have only a "cold relationship" with an independent East Timor.

The pro-Muslim Republika newspaper said that the independence movement was a western conspiracy against Indonesia, led by the US.

One plan for a form of intervention would involve a change of mandate by the security council to arm the 500 or so foreign military observers and police already in East Timor. This could be presented to Indonesia as an exercise to "protect UN staff" and installations. "We are trying to find a half-way house," said a negotiator.

Western ambassadors have been telling the highest levels of government in Jakarta that what is happening in Dili is disastrous for Indonesia as well as for the East Timorese.

President BJ Habibie, who reversed Indonesia's policy in January by authorising the independence ballot, met the British, US, Japanese and New Zealand ambassadors on Sat urday. He said he was doing everything he could, and resented being criticised after having taken such a big step under international pressure.

The diplomats felt that there were limits to the power of Mr Habibie and other civilian ministers in the face of army elements apparently opposed to relinquishing East Timor.

Foreign observers who have witnessed the militia's fury on the ground in Dili are less patient with diplomatic scruples. They fear that a massacre is imminent.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **