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Thursday, 30 September, 1999, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
US warns Indonesian army
Smiles but a tough message as Mr Cohen meets General Wiranto
The United States has warned Indonesia that it will not restore defence ties until the military starts showing some respect for human rights.

East Timor
US Defence Secretary William Cohen also demanded that Indonesian troops disarm the militias responsible for violence in East Timor, saying they would do "severe damage" to their country if they did not.

"In our discussion, I made it clear that the US will not consider restoring normal military-to-military contacts until the TNI (Indonesian armed forces) reforms its ways," Mr Cohen said after meeting Indonesia's army chief, General Wiranto, in Jakarta.

In a sign that militias are still active in East Timor, British Army gurkhas had to open fire while escorting an aid convoy to the eastern town of Los Palos.

The gurkhas fired warning shots to disperse a group of militiamen at a port in the eastern town of Com and made two arrests.

Three rival militia groups are still active in the area.

Meanwhile, 30 pro-independence Falantil rebels have handed over weapons captured from pro-Jakarta militiamen, and offered to work with the UN peacekeepers.

Discussions between the Australian-led force and the Falantil militia were said to include issues such as conducting joint patrols.

Just a few days ago, the Falantil would have risked serious danger by entering Dili from their bases in the surrounding hills.

'A credible commitment'

In a strongly-worded statement, Mr Cohen accused the Indonesian military of abetting violence in East Timor and called on it to support a peaceful solution in the territory.

The former Indonesian army barracks in Dili burns behind an Australian peacekeeper
But after a subsequent meeting with Indonesian President BJ Habibie, Mr Cohen said he had been given a credible commitment "to seeing the success of the peacekeeping mission".

Asked whether he had been given assurances that the militias would be disarmed, Mr Cohen said: "They indicated that is a task that must be undertaken".

The US suspended normal military contacts this month when Indonesian troops were implicated in the violence which swept East Timor after it voted for independence.

The Indonesian army itself has given a radically different interpretation of the meeting. A spokesman said only that Mr Cohen had expressed his "appreciation for the army's commitment to human rights and democracy".

Atrocities inquiry

The United Nations has meanwhile vowed to press ahead with an inquiry into alleged atrocities in East Timor - with or without Indonesia's co-operation.

Peacekeepers wave goodbye to Indonesian troops
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the inquiry would expect to have access to witnesses in East Timor and to the Indonesian military.

"We would hope for the co-operation of Indonesia," he said. "But if they fail to, it would not deter the investigation from going forward."

Mr Eckhard's statement followed an outright rejection of any international inquiry by the Indonesia's Justice Minister Muladi, who said foreign experts could instead work alongside Indonesia's own human rights body.

Charred bodies

The BBC Jakarta correspondent says the UN should have little difficulty in acquiring evidence of atrocities by Indonesian troops and militias, which he says is emerging every day.

In one of the most recent cases, a truck was discovered in Dili containing several charred bodies which eyewitnesses said were killed by militia.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson is expected to be given responsibility for the appointment of personnel to the inquiry.

When the investigations are completed, it will be up to the UN Security Council to decide whether it wants a full war-crimes tribunal similar to those created to deal with atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Aid promise

In Washington, the international community has offered aid to rebuild the shattered territory following a personal plea by the East Timorese independence leader, Xanana Gusmao.

The pledge came on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The World Bank and other agencies plan to send a mission to assess the situation as soon as it is safe to do so.

Mr Gusmao said: "On behalf of my people, I have to recognise that this meeting is an extraordinary response from the international community to their suffering.

There are allegations of food being denied to refugees who want to return to East Timor
There are allegations of food being denied to refugees who want to return to East Timor
He said the aid would help ''build a new country with the values that guided our struggle...justice, democracy, human rights".

A spokesman for the independent Carter Centre, which monitors human rights, has called on Indonesia to honour its pledge to allow foreign observers into refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor.

Both the Carter Centre and Amnesty International have reported that refugees in West Timor camps are being recruited into the militias, although it is unclear what methods are being used.

Other top stories

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 ON THIS STORY
Audio
The BBC's Richard Galpin: ''Mr Cohen warned that the army was at a critical turning point.''
Video
The BBC's David Willis: "A hazardous mission"
Audio
The BBC's Andrew Walker: ''About half East Timor households live on or below the poverty line''
Audio
The BBC's Mark Devenport: "The UN wants access to Jakarta's military records"
See also:

08 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
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29 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
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28 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
30 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
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