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Sunday, August 29, 1999 Published at 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

East Timor rivals reach agreement

Carrying arms in public is to be banned

The United Nations mission in East Timor has received a pledge from the leaders of rival militias not to disrupt Monday's referendum on the territory's future.

The militia leaders and the pro-independence guerrillas told the UN they would keep their fighters off the streets.

The BBC's Jonathan Head reports: "Both sides promised to keep their amred men in designated areas duing the vote"
A BBC correspondent in Dili says the UN is determined to ensure the vote goes ahead. But he says there are uncertainties about the sincerity of the factions and whether the leaders can control their forces.

At least seven people have been killed in the violence of recent days.

Tenuous peace

The rival groups said they had agreed to ban weapons outside designated areas, and to ask the Indonesian police to arrest anyone carrying arms in public.

East Timor
The deal was made public at a joint news conference at the UN mission in Dili, addressed by representatives of the Falintil pro-independence guerrillas and the pro-Indonesian militias of the Command of the Pro-Integration Struggle (PPI).

"This is an historic step in which Falintil and PPI are able to come together in agreement," said Eurico Guterres, commander of one of the pro-Indonesian militias.

Falintil leader, Falur Rate Laek, said the agreement paved the way for a peaceful vote on Monday.

"We wanted this agreement so that the people in the mountains can come down and vote tomorrow," he said.

International concern

As the violence continued unchecked, world leaders expressed their fears.

[ image: B J Habibie: Asked to honour result]
B J Habibie: Asked to honour result
Prime Minister John Howard of Australia said he would phone Indonesian President B J Habibie on Sunday to ask him to accept the result of the referendum.

There has been some concern that a failed vote would lead to mass migration of refugees into Australia.

Pope John Paul II, in a message to the province's Catholics, called on the opposing factions to "heal past wounds with respect and love for one another."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described Monday's ballot as "a unique opportunity to settle a long-running dispute by peaceful means."

The UN has expressed its concern at the level of violence and has accused sections of the Indonesian military of backing the militias' terror campaign.


On Saturday pro-Jakarta militias roamed unchecked through Dili, sending hundreds of people fleeing in terror.

Professor George Aditjondro of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales talking to the BBC's News 24
Frightened residents seeking refuge in a Roman Catholic mission said armed bands had threatened to kill those who voted to sever ties with Jakarta.

Overnight militia attacks, which included the torching of part of a village, left a number of people dead. One pro-independence leader was killed and then beheaded.

The ballot is widely predicted to go in favour of independence which would end more than 23 years of Indonesian occupation in the former Portuguese colony.

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