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Special Meeting On Timor About To End

By Selwyn Manning

The special meeting of foreign ministers has gathered behind locked doors to discuss the atrocities in East Timor. The meeting in Auckland’s Town Hall will wind up at around 11:30 this morning.

A press conference will follow to reveal what APEC countries can do to bring peace to East Timor.

Indonesia last night confirmed that it would send its minister of the economy, Mr Ginandjar as a replacement for President Habibie, who pulled out of the APEC leader’s conference late yesterday evening.

It is clear the crisis in East Timor is overshadowing the early stages of Auckland's APEC Foreign Minister's meetings.

ASEAN countries have already expressed concern that attention to the atrocities being carried out in East Timor by pro-Indonesian militia could derail APEC’s trade agenda.

China is playing a cool stance, keeping its distance from any talks of military intervention in East Timor by western countries. And other ASEAN nations are clearly nervous about taking a critical stance against their powerful neighbour, Indonesia.

US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, have arrived ahead of the APEC entourages, with other foreign ministers arriving tonight.
A special meeting tomorrow is scheduled for tomorrow morning, separate from APEC, to discuss East Timor.

Indonesia’s President Habibie has snubbed the meeting, calling off his visit to APEC earlier this evening.
Indonesia also confirmed it will not allow a foreign peace-keeping force into East Timor.

This position had earlier been stressed by the head of Indonesia’s armed forces, General Wiranto.

The ASEAN stance makes this morning’s special meeting a predominantly western alliance. Australia is leading the charge pushing for an aggressive diplomatic message to Habibie to instruct his forces to create calm in East Timor or face a foreign peacekeeping contingent in the former Portuguese colony.

More after the press conference at 11:30am

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