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Reports Suggest Calm May Be Returning To Dili

By Selwyn Manning

Reports today suggest calm may be returning to Dili and that the violence in East Timor is passing.

International agency reports confirm Scoop's exclusive interviews with the Indonesian Government last night. Senior Indonesian officials insisted that martial law was bringing about calm, and the curfew had been effectively instituted in Dili.

Last night a spokesperson for the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Abdullah Alatas, told Scoop Media: There has been an improvement in East Timor.

"I can confirm that we [the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta] are receiving reports from Dili and the surrounding area, and the situation has improved.

"Since the Indonesian Army on the instructions of the Indonesian Government instituted marshal law things have improved and there has been a marked reduction in violence."

Jakarta is now saying pro-Indonesian militia are agreeing to a "laying down of arms".

"I would not say it is back to normal in East Timor, but the worst expressions of violence have been quelled. Much of the world's view of East Timor comes from the United Nations compound in Dili". Mr Alatas' spokesperson said Jakarta has no knowledge, reports or developments on the situation surrounding the UN compound.

"But I can say, we have instructed our army that the safety of the UN compound and its personnel is of the utmost importance," Mr Alatas' spokesman said. "We are taking the necessary steps by imposing marshal law in East Timor and we have done this in consultation with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan."

He said the Indonesian Government will inform the United States President and the international community gathered in Auckland for the APEC leader's summit meetings, that the international community must give Indonesia a chance for its moves to peace to work. Any reports that the split between the Indonesian Government and the Military were false: "It is that type of speculation which is not helpful to the situation in Indonesia or East Timor."

A five-member delegation from the UN Security Council flew from Jakarta to the East Timorese capital of Dili today to assess the future of the independence vote in the violence-wracked Indonesian province.

The compound in Dili is the headquarters for the UN elections team in East Timor, which has been engulfed by a wave of murders and deportations.

UN spokesman David Wimhurst said today from Darwin: "There's absolutely no decision yet to pull out."

The latest reports suggest calm is being restored. Associated Press report Dili was calm this morning and that the UN compound is secure. About 1,000 refugees remain inside.

An Indonesian air force Fokker 28 flew the UN delegation from a Jakarta military airport to Dili early this morning. It arrived at about 6am NZ time.

Delegation leader, Martin Andjaba, the Namibian's UN ambassador, and five other UN ambassadors are to report back to UN chief Annan shortly.

Annan will then decide whether to keep the UN compound in Dili open.

The UN delegation will also meet with Indonesian President B.J. Habibie tomorrow.

Australian news agencies are reporting of atrocities. Australian Isa Bradridge said today that his wife saw "thousands of bodies" piled in a large cell in Dili's police station.

"My wife told me she saw bodies. Thousands of them," Bradridge said to today's Sydney Morning Herald.

"Stacks of bodies went up to the roof. I know it is hard to believe but it is absolutely true. My wife saw arms and legs and dripping blood."

Last month, 78.5 per cent of East Timor's registered voters approved independence for the region in a UN-backed referendum. However, the announcement of the results a week ago triggered a wave of violence, and has pushed Indonesia to the brink of becoming a pariah nation.

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