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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 15:50 GMT
Army chief denies Timor killings
Gen Sutarto and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Gen Sutarto (L) denies the use of napalm
The Indonesian army chief has rejected a report accusing it of causing deaths of up to 185,000 civilians in East Timor during Jakarta's 24-year rule.

Gen Endriartono Sutarto said he was not convinced that many of the deaths cited in the report resulted directly from Indonesian army action.

The report says more than 90% of the deaths were from hunger and illnesses caused by army policy in the region.

The report is not yet public, but was leaked through Timorese politicians.

Compiled by the independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, it was presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan by the East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao on Friday. Mr Gusmao said the study should be a means of "healing wounds" rather than an attempt to punish.

Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono has already denied some claims in the report.

'Not intentional'

The 2,500-page report documents a catalogue of abuses allegedly committed by Indonesian security forces, based on the testimony of thousands of witnesses.

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao
Mr Gusmao has tried to play down the report

It says Indonesia's policy of deliberate starvation could have cost the lives of between 84,000 and 183,000 people between 1975 and 1999, and that the military used napalm bombs during its occupation of East Timor.

Gen Sutarto said he did not believe that the armed forces (TNI) or the police were responsible for the deaths, or that they had deliberately caused famine.

"Even if there was famine, it may have been because the war made food scarce," he said. "That is not something intentional caused by the TNI."

He also denied the use of napalm.

1975: Indonesia invades after colonial power Portugal withdraws
Indonesia's often brutal rule opposed by Fretilin fighters
1999: More than 1,000 people killed over independence referendum
2002: East Timor becomes independent nation

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says Mr Gusmao has tried hard to play down the report, as there is no appetite in either country to pursue those ultimately responsible for the violence.

The report is also critical of the tactics used by the Timorese resistance movement, which Mr Gusmao led.

The territory won independence after a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999, which was itself the focus of widespread violence.

East Timor is still heavily dependent on Indonesia, our correspondent says, and Mr Gusmao sees the main objective of the research as a reminder to future generations that they should not make the same mistakes again.

However, critics of the government's approach say little has been achieved in attempts to prosecute those responsible for abuses and that justice needs to be done.

See Xanana Gusmao present the report to the UN

Victims of a brutal war
20 Apr 03 |  From Our Own Correspondent
East Timor: Birth of a nation
19 May 02 |  Asia-Pacific
East Timor launches truth commission
21 Jan 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor
12 Jan 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: East Timor
30 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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