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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK


Jakarta media cautious on peacekeepers

Protests: Students have backed moves for peacekeepers

The Indonesian media has welcomed Jakarta's decision to allow a UN peace-keeping force to be deployed in East Timor.

In a commentary published on Monday, the Antara news agency described the decision as "a positive step" which had been accepted for humanitarian reasons.

But it said that the deployment of Australian troops as part of the UN force could provoke reactions from pro-integrationist groups as Australia was considered to be siding with the pro-independence camp".

'Sever relations'

Antara said that the Indonesian parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission had urged the government to reject Australian, New Zealand and Portuguese involvement in the peacekeeping force.

"The presence of the troops of the three countries will create new chaos because they are clearly not neutral," it said

Canberra criticised

The Jakarta daily, Media Indonesia, published comments from officials critical of Canberra.


[ image: Flag burning: Demonstrators target US and Australia]
Flag burning: Demonstrators target US and Australia
"The Indonesian government has been urged to sever diplomatic relations with Australia because the stance and statements of the land of the kangaroos on East Timor have undermined the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia," the newspaper said.

It quoted the co-chairman of the opposition Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), Dimyati Hartono, as saying Australia's stance and statements had tarnished the reputation of a sovereign nation.

"The Australians have described the Indonesians as bandits in the international community," he said.

Hartono was quoted as saying that the severing of diplomatic relations with Australia could serve as a lesson not to take Indonesia lightly in the future.

'Face-saving decision'

While welcoming President BJ Habibie's decision, the independent Jakarta Post said that the move provided Jakarta with a "face-saving exit" after suffering "international indignation" for its handling of the crisis.

The paper said that it would not be surprising to find some nations have "misgivings" about Jakarta's intentions and view the "security co-operation" as "another trick by Jakarta to buy more time".

It also criticised Indonesia's military chief General Wiranto after he said that his soldiers had "psychological difficulties" in dealing with the pro-Indonesian militia alsongside whom they had fought for 23 years.

"If only such a frank yet disturbing admission had been made months ago," commented the newspaper.

"Then, security arrangements during and before the ballot in East Timor would never have been entrusted to Indonesia and we could probably have avoided this unnecessary bloodshed."

The newspaper also remained sceptical about the future of Indonesia's international image.

"Indonesia's offer looks good on paper, but Jakarta will most likely find it an uphill struggle to regain the trust and confidence of the international community," it concluded.

UN will "bring certainty"

However, the government-owned Radio Republik Indonesia reported that economic experts had predicted that the decision would "bring certainty to the country's economy".

But while Umar Juoro and I Nyoman Muna described the policy as "positive", they also urged the government not to allow Australia to join the peacekeeping force.

Juoro, who is close to the president, said that the IMF and World Bank now had no reason to link East Timor with the economy now that Indonesia had made its decision.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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