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Labour welcomes Clinton priority to Timor

Labour
2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark has welcomed President Clinton's intention to make East Timor an important part of the APEC leaders' discussions this weekend.

Helen Clark said that the President's decision to suspend military links with Indonesia and to question the future of economic assistance to that country raises enormously the pressure on Indonesia.

"From the outset, the New Zealand Government has been wrong footed in its response to the East Timor crisis.

"On Monday, Don McKinnon stated that the issue was only on the margins of the APEC summit.

"On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Mr McKinnon and Mrs Shipley made one excuse after another for Indonesia.

"On Friday morning the Prime Minister went so far as to claim that the situation in East Timor had stabilised. She seemed unfazed by news reports that Dili was burning and empty and that many people, including Catholic clergy, had been murdered.

"Now that the United States has determined to raise the stakes on the issue, the National Government will no doubt lamely follow.

"But what will stick in the public mind is National's minimalist position from the outset and its determination to the point of moral repugnance not to allow the humanitarian crisis to sully its photo opportunities at the APEC summit.

"President Clinton's position has blown the flimsy defences of the New Zealand Government away. East Timor will be at the forefront of the leaders' discussions this weekend despite the efforts of a dying host government in New Zealand to prevent that happening."

Helen Clark called on the APEC leaders to urge Indonesia to convene its new Parliament urgently so that the East Timor ballot can be put before it.

"Jose Ramos Horta told me yesterday that he believes a majority of that new Parliament will vote to uphold the East Timor ballot result and to move East Timor to Independence.

"If that is the will of the Indonesian Parliament, then only a military takeover in Indonesia could prevent the move to independence occurring.

"It is urgent now that the democratic process in Indonesia can show that it intends to respect the democratic decision of the East Timorese," Helen Clark said.

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