Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Analysis: The West's reluctance to act
Madeleine Albright: Indonesia responsible for restoring order
By Diplomatic Correspondent Barnaby Mason
The big powers continue to emphasise that it is impossible to send a peacekeeping force into East Timor against the wishes of Indonesia.
The American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said the Indonesians had the primary responsibility for restoring order.
No one would send a force to fight its way into East Timor against the Indonesian army. But even putting heavy pressure on Indonesia is a delicate matter.
For the Americans and others, it is a critically important state in the region, both politically and economically.
The big powers are also anxious to do nothing to encourage turbulent regions of Indonesia to break away; they stress that East Timor is a special case.
Economic sanctions could be used against Jakarta, through a freeze on international aid.
But other governments are wary of tipping a precarious financial situation over the edge and triggering another collapse that would have an impact all over Asia.
Indonesia also owes many billions of dollars to Japanese, American and European banks - and they are counting on growth and stability to get their money back.
And Australia has oil interests in the Timor Sea. Australia feels especially vulnerable to instability in Indonesia, a huge neighbour just to the north with a population of more than 200 million.
If it does come to the UN authorising a peacekeeping force, China's agreement would be necessary. The Chinese are opposed to anything that might in any way resemble an Asian version of the Kosovo intervention.
They are also cautious about Indonesia because of the vulnerability of its ethnic Chinese minority.
The Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, said in Canberra that hotspots like East Timor should be resolved through peaceful negotiations and dialogue.
All these obstacles are not an absolute bar to international intervention in East Timor. But they make decisive action improbable.