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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Indonesia set to let East Timor go

Children in East Timor's capital Dili run for UN food

Indonesia's assembly is expected to ratify East Timor's right to independence after almost 24 years of army-enforced rule from Jakarta.

The BBC's Richard Galpin: "It appears unlikely that any conditions will be attached"
All 11 factions in the People's Consultative Assembly are agreed on the matter and correspondents say it should be a formality.

The transition to independence is dependent on the assembly revoking its 1978 ruling incorporating East Timor as Indonesia's 27th "province".

East Timor
Erna Witoelar, a member of the assembly commission which has been reviewing East Timor's 30 August vote for independence, said she expected the assembly to vote on the committee's recommendation before Wednesday's presidential election.

BBC Jakarta correspondent Richard Galpin says it appears unlikely that any conditions will be attached, despite earlier concerns and it means East Timor should gain formal independence within a matter of days.

Among the conditions which had been considered were calls for an investigation into alleged bias by the United Nations mission which supervised the referendum.

If this had been demanded it could have led to a considerable delay in the referendum being ratified.

After the ratification, UN peacekeepers will take over from the Australian-led Interfet.

[ image: Dr Mahathir wants Malaysia to take command]
Dr Mahathir wants Malaysia to take command
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said his country wants to command the new peacekeeping operation.

And Australia has said it wants one of Indonesia's neighbours in the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) to lead the peacekeeping force.

But Timor independence leader Jose Ramos Horta said on Friday that Asean countries were not neutral.

He said the East Timorese would not accept an Asean state as leader of the UN transitional administration because they had been "accomplices of Indonesia".

Habibie blow

The assembly's task of electing a president appears less clear cut.

[ image: President Habibie: Unlikely to get Assembly support]
President Habibie: Unlikely to get Assembly support
President Habibie's bid for another term has been dealt a new blow by the decision of the armed forces chief, General Wiranto, not to stand as his running mate.

The general is thought to have been approached by a number of presidential candidates, but appears to have decided not to run at all in Wednesday's presidential elections.

He told state television that he would rather concentrate on security issues.

The People's Consultative Assembly of Indonesia is due to vote to endorse or reject Mr Habibie's 17-month rule on Tuesday before electing a new president on Wednesday.

General Wiranto would have brought with him an influential block of seats in the assembly, plus the influence the military still wields over some undecided members.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party won the largest share of the vote in the June parliamentary election, has failed to build a coalition with other parties in the assembly. And a former key ally, the moderate Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, has announced he will run against her.

Observers believe Mr Wahid could still get enough support from Muslim parties to mount a serious challenge to Megawati's presidential ambitions.

Dili talks

In East Timor an Indonesian Government task force has been holding talks with the international peacekeeping force and United Nations representatives on how to manage the transfer of power.

The BBC correspondent in the regional capital, Dili, says key issues in the first stage of discussions include Indonesia's demands to recover or dispose of its assets in East Timor.

[ image: Shallow grave: Another victim of the militia rampage]
Shallow grave: Another victim of the militia rampage
These range from state telecommunications facilities, and projects financed by the provincial government, to individual private properties.

The task force plans to remain in East Timor until the Indonesian assembly ratifies the vote, and transition is complete.

Aid agencies are also seeking access to the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi, from where human rights abuses and starvation have been reported.

The pro-independence militia, Falintil, said in a statement it had reports of multiple murders and rapes recently carried out in the enclave.

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