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US State Department On East Timor Situation

US DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Daily Press Briefing

INDONESIA (EAST TIMOR)

Armed militia continue to move freely. US pressing government to disarm, disband militias, arrest those responsible for violence and destruction. US supports UN process there, continues to monitor situation closely.

…..

QUESTION: East Timor appears to be on the brink at the moment. Now while security remains an Indonesian responsibility, at present, would the US support the UN and Indonesia considering outside intervention at this point?

MR. REEKER: Let me give you a few words on East Timor because, obviously, we've been keeping up to date on that - literally -- moment by moment. Dili was quieter Thursday than in proceeding days, but armed militia are continuing to move freely in Dili and elsewhere in East Timor and there are reports of acts of destruction outside the capital. Under these circumstances, concerns about security and Indonesia's responsibility to maintain peace and order expressed in yesterday's public statement from this podium are still foremost in our minds.

Through yesterday's statement, and in contacts at the highest levels with Indonesian officials over the past 24 hours, we are pressing the government of Indonesia to make good on their assurances and restore order in East Timor, moving immediately to disarm and disband the militias and arresting those responsible for acts of violence and destruction.

Security in East Timor is the responsibility of the government of Indonesia under its international commitments, including the May 5 Agreement. If the results of the vote indicate that the East Timorese have rejected autonomy and thus chosen independence, this responsibility will remain Indonesia's until the separation of East Timor from Indonesia, and until the UN is ready to assume that responsibility. The UN mission during such a transition in East Timor would logically include a security force of some kind. The nature of this force is a topic for discussion in New York and at the United Nations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - that you say that the transition phase would logically include such a peacekeeping force. Do you mean the transition phase before the Indonesian Parliament has ratified a result which could be months off, or do you mean after that?

MR. REEKER: Obviously, if the East Timorese, through their vote, have rejected autonomy and chosen independence, Indonesia has a responsibility to maintain security there until the actual separation of East Timor from Indonesia. Now, clearly, that would have to be defined particularly, but at that point the UN would need to signal that it's ready to assume the responsibility, and I think the May 5 Agreement may outline some of those issues, but I'd want to refer you to the UN for the details on that.

So we very much support the UN process on this, and are very much engaged in that -- in the discussions that are going on in New York at the United Nations at this time.

QUESTION: Do you believe it's appropriate, however, for the UN at this stage to be discussing an early deployment, given that we've got a situation which could deteriorate into civil war within a matter of days?

MR. REEKER: Again, as I said yesterday, I don't want to speculate about what might happen there. We have a very clear view of what should happen in Indonesia; we're monitoring the situation extremely closely and carefully. We expressed yesterday our concern and reiterated the need for Indonesia to take its responsibility and its obligations very seriously -- those obligations which they agreed to. So rather than, again, speculate or try to anticipate any other steps, we just want to keep our message out there, which is very clear on what should happen there, and we'll continue to monitor it very closely.

QUESTION: So the answer to his question is no; it's inappropriate to have a discussion about early deployment notwithstanding the difficulties on the ground right now?

MR. REEKER: All I said was that I don't want to speculate about what might happen. It's the Indonesians' responsibility; they've taken that responsibility; they're obligated. They are in a position to provide adequate security, and that's what we have called for in our statement yesterday.

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