Albright fears war in Timor

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THE UNITED States has warned that the future of East Timor is being jeopardised by the flow of guns into the territory, which is fuelling fighting between supporters and opponents of independence.

Yesterday Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, said the world supported Indonesia's efforts to bring peace to the territory, which it occupied in 1975. But she warned: "There are grave concerns about the fighting and the availability of arms, as well as the social and economic impact of rapid transition [to independence]." Tension has increased in East Timor since Indonesia announced that if it rejected autonomy, it could go free. Many East Timorese say the Indonesian army is giving out guns to militias that back continued rule by Jakarta.

"I raised the issue [of arms] because we are concerned about the reports we have heard," Ms Albright said after meeting Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas. He said some people were being trained as militiamen to back up the army, but insisted guns used in killings over the past two months "definitely did not come from our forces".

Last month a Timorese militia leader, Cansio Carvalho, told the BBC that Indonesian officials had supplied his men with SKS carbines, Russian-made weapons used by the Indonesian police.

Ms Albright is to meet East Timor's independence leader,Xanana Gusmao, who is under house arrest in Jakarta. He has said he will ask her to end US military support for Indonesia until its army is "committed to stop the problems in East Timor".

Ms Albright will also tell Indonesia the US supports its progress on preparing for free elections in June. But not everyone agrees. Hours before her aircraft landed, troops broke up a protest in Jakarta by students who want President B J Habibie to step down.

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