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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

East Timor peace deal signed

East Timor has seen a rising spiral of violence between rival militia

Leaders of the pro- and anti-independence movements in East Timor have signed an agreement to end hostilities, which have claimed dozens of lives this year.

[ image: General Wiranto witnessed the signing in Dili]
General Wiranto witnessed the signing in Dili
The agreement was signed by the jailed rebel leader, Xanana Gusmao, in Jakarta.

It was then faxed to East Timor, where it was also signed by two leading anti-independence campaigners at the residence of the Bishop of Dili, Nobel peace prize laureate Bishop Carlos Belo.

Both sides promised to instruct their followers not to use violence against each other and pledged to "stop hatred, intimidation, and terror and try to help create peace."

Jakarta Correspondent Jonathan Head: There have been previous reconcilliations
The agreement was witnessed by the Indonesian military commander, General Wiranto.

He travelled to East Timor on Tuesday after strong international condemnation of the attacks by pro-government militias over the weekend which left at least 15 people dead.

General Wiranto has promised to put an end to the attacks but he has so far refused to acknowledge the support his own soldiers and the local Indonesian administration are giving to the militias.

Further attacks feared

[ image:  Xanana Gusmao remains under house arrest in Jakarta]
Xanana Gusmao remains under house arrest in Jakarta
BBC Jakarta Correspondent Jonathan Head says that while that support continues pro-independence activists cannot campaign openly. Many have already gone underground for fear of further attacks by the well-armed militias.

However, Indonesian President BJ Habibie has reaffirmed his personal commitment to giving the East Timorese a free choice over their future.

Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, is due to unveil the government's autonomy plan for the territory at talks with his Portuguese counterpart and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York beginning on Thursday.

International monitors

[ image: The military has armed and trained pro-Indonesian militia]
The military has armed and trained pro-Indonesian militia
In a meeting with senior Australian editors in Jakarta, Mr Habibie said he was now ready to invite international monitors to help prepare the territory for a vote.

They should get their opportunity for self-determination, he is quoted as saying. "I only have one care, they should not be tortured or suffer any more."

Diplomatic sources said Mr Habibie's proposal to invite in a team of monitors meant the planned ballot in July would almost certainly have to be delayed.

And while an international presence will help clarify who is responsible for outbreaks of violence, most observers agree that the neutrality of the armed forces is the most essential element in ensuring that the vote is free and fair.

Our correspondent says that so far there has been no evidence that the military is willing to disengage itself from the territory it has controlled for the past 23 years.

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