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Anti Independence Coalition Forms In Timor

Militia leaders are saying let the UN troops die of malaria while Indonesian troops watch with apparent bemusement as members of the UN forces arrive in East Timor dressed in heavy battle fatigues, armoured vests, full packs and ammunition belts in the sweltering tropical heat. John Howard reports.

In what could now be described as pyschological warfare, anti-independence factions in East Timor are reported to have formed a coalition.

Calling itself the National United Front, the group said it has 50,000 men in East Timor and would defend the territory against anyone who sought to practise "neo-colonialism."

Coalition spokesman Basilio Araujo, said militiamen would not surrender their weapons and would fight a guerilla war from the jungle. "The militia still have a lot of good hand-made weapons to be used against the UN troops and there are inter-linked tunnels throughout the jungles which we "pop-up" from," he said.

Mr Araujo added: "We know our countryside better, where we hide and how to avoid malaria mosquitoes, let the UN troops die of malaria."

None of this can be verified but Indonesia's chief military spokesman, Major-General Sudradjat, said in Jakarta: "I heard from (Aitarak militia chief) Eurico Guterres he has 50,000 men in East Timor."

Troops from "Operation Stabilise," as the UN mission is called, are confiscating home-made guns and machetes from a small number of militiamen riding motorcycles and who are wearing the now familiar red-and-white headbands.

Meanwhile, East Timorese who fled or were forcibly deported to Indonesian West Timor amid the chaotic aftermath of last month's independence vote face a second exercise in self determination, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ms Sadako Ogata said in Kupang, West Timor.

What the refugees decide - whether to return home to the East or take up the Indonesian government's offer of resettlement in neighbouring islands such as Flores and Sumba - would depend on time and circumstances and be subject to its own vote.

" It is a self-determination of a kind that was carried out by the United Nations (on August 30). It reminds me of Kosovo or Bosnia but the situation here is much more complex. In Kosovo everyone wanted to go back," she said.

The Jakarta daily Suara Pembaruan is reporting the Indonesian government was earmarking 225 billion rupiah to build new settlements in West Timor for about 90,000 people displaced from East Timor. But official figures show that by last Sunday 185,888 people had crossed into West Timor from East Timor using land, sea and air transport.

A high level United States-led mission will travel to West Timor this week to assess the humanitarian situation. The UN and non-government aid agencies have jointly launched, for the first time ever, an emergency appeal to raise money to help people in both East and West Timor.

The UN World Food programme said it was securing aircraft and helicopters for airdrops to an estimated 50,000 people living in mountain areas of East Timor who had not had any food supplies for several weeks. The programme has announced a $US 5.6 million emergency appeal to feed 150,000 people in the next two months, said spokeswoman Abbey Spring.

ENDS


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