Tuesday, September 7, 1999 Published at 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Analysis: Will the world intervene?
Thousands of East Timorese have fled militia violence
By UN Correspondent Mark Devenport
Pressure is growing for an international force to be deployed in East Timor to stop the carnage and to protect tens of thousands of civilians now being terrorised by pro-Indonesian militias.
But as ever, in such times of crisis, the UN - which has no standing army of its own - is at the mercy of its member states.
A number of neighbouring countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have indicated that they will provide troops for an international force.
The simple fact is, that with an estimated 20,000 troops deployed in East Timor, the Indonesian armed forces are too big for any of the neighbouring countries to take on.
Beyond this military reality, there are additional political reasons for the international community's delay.
Indonesia is not without friends, especially amongst the Islamic nations.
China, one of the five permanent members of the Council, is generally opposed to any interference in the internal affairs of a state.
The international community has not generally recognised Indonesia's annexation of East Timor - but Jakarta argues that, until its parliament ratifies the result of the recent independence vote, the territory remains its responsibility.
If martial law does not dramatically improve the situation on the ground in the next 24 to 48 hours, the pressure will grow immensely on Jakarta to ask for assistance.
Australia's soldiers could deploy within 72 hours. Australia is prepared to lead a multi-lateral force, but wants other countries to participate, especially the world's superpower the United States.
In the mainstream domestic US media, however, the intensifying violence in East Timor is still not an especially big story.
With Congress always sceptical about US military involvement abroad, the White House shows no inclination to do much more than voicing its approval for intervention with Indonesian consent.
All the while, the killings and the expulsions go on, and, with the memory of past genocides in mind, the international community contemplates the dreadful consequences of delay and inaction.