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Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 17:43 UK

Jakarta warns against Timor probe

Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Brian Peters, Tony Stewart,
The five were Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Brian Peters and Tony Stewart

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says ties with Australia may be harmed by a war crimes inquiry into five journalists' deaths in East Timor.

Australian police earlier announced the inquiry into the deaths of the "Balibo Five" which happened during Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

President Yudhoyono said to reopen the case was not in the spirit of the relationship the two countries shared.

Indonesia maintains the journalists were killed accidentally in cross-fire.

This version of events has been accepted by successive Australian governments.

But in 2007 an Australian coroner found that the the two Australians, two Britons and a New Zealander were executed by Indonesian special forces in the border town of Balibo to stop them revealing details of an impending Indonesian invasion.

'Past mistakes'

Mr Yudhoyono implied that Australian history showed it was not free from its own mistakes in the past.

"Frankly if we were to focus on the past, then we can look at the era of slavery, crimes against humanity, colonialism. All gross human rights violations," he said.

"But a smart and wise nation looks forward. I am urging Australia's foreign minister to manage this problem wisely so that it won't disrupt our good relations with Australia."

Map of East Timor

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told the BBC that Jakarta considered the matter closed and had no intention of reopening it.

He said an investigation would be difficult as many witnesses may no longer be alive.

The announcement of the Australian inquiry comes weeks after the release of a hard-hitting film, Balibo, which shows the five being murdered by Indonesian troops.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Indonesia had been "surprised" by the police decision but played down talk of a rift.

"I believe we can manage these challenges," he told Australian broadcaster ABC.

"There are bumps in the road with most relationships around the world and I think we'll have to manage this one as well."

Indonesia invaded East Timor after the territory descended into civil war following the end of Portuguese colonial rule.

At least 100,000 people are believed to have died as a result of Indonesia's 25-year occupation. East Timor achieved formal independence in 2002.



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