Indonesia demands time before world judges East Timor martial law

JAKARTA, Sept 9 (AFP) - Foreign Minister Ali Alatas on Thursday warned that fighting would erupt if UN troops were sent into East Timor now and called for the world to allow Indonesia time to restore order there.

"If UN troops arrived (now), there would be fighting," Alatas said.

"Give us time now, see the results and judge us by the fact that we can now, under the rules and the arrangements of martial law, restore law and order in quick session," Alatas said.

He said martial law had enabled the Indonesian army to start moving in the territory, which has been devastated by violence from pro-Jakarta militias in the past week.

"Now the army is moving, and not the police. The army is moving with a strong move as they have to move," Alatas said.

"If it doesn't work, our president has said we are willing to sit down with the UN and talk about perhaps other measures," he added.

But he warned that a foreign peace keeping mission could run into trouble.

"We also have to take into consideration ... how effective a peace keeping operation can be when there is no peace yet to keep," Alatas said.

"We have a lot of experience ... and the failure of this kind of mission when there is no peace yet to be kept."

Alatas said the Indonesian military now had the authority to declare a curfew, stop people, disarm them on the street, shoot on sight if they violated curfew hours, arrest people for 20 days without warrants and enter premises without search warrants.

"Right now I think it is only fair and reasonable and rational to allow this new situation to take root in East Timor," he added.

Shots have continued to ring in the East Timorese capital of Dili since martial law was imposed on Tuesday, journalists there said.

Alatas also said the military and police as institutions did not support the rampant burning, killing and looting.

"These are criminal activities we are going to put a stop to," he said.

He conceded there might have been rogue elements within the army, including possibly soldiers recruited in East Timor, but said police and the military as a whole did not support the violence.

"We reject all kinds of insinuation and accusations in that direction," Alatas said.

Witnesses, including refugees who fled East Timor, journalists and diplomats, have told of naked collusion between troops and the military or of the police and army standing by during militia rampages.

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