Blair warns Indonesia: stop the killing or become pariah

  • @dusborne
THE PRIME MINISTER, Tony Blair, warned the President of Indonesia, B J Habibie, that his country risks becoming an international pariah if it fails to end the violence in East Timor, amid fresh reports of massacres, destruction and deportations.

Catholic priests and nuns fled into hiding in the mountains of East Timor last night as militia gangs targeted them for reprisals. At least 14 were murdered as the pro-Jakarta militias went on a bloody rampage in the towns of Baucau and Suai and in the East Timorese capital Dili.

In a meeting in Jakarta with envoys from the UN Security Council, the government again spurned requests to allow the deployment of UN troops in the province. Dr Habibie refused to acknowledge the atrocities in East Timor, characterising them as "lies and fantasies".

But there were signs Indonesia would heed global outrage. It now seems likely that the evacuation today of UN workers from East Timor will only be partial, that a core number of UN staff - up to 70 - will stay, and that security for them may improve.

Yesterday a delivery of much needed supplies from Australia was allowed into the UN headquarters in Dili. President Habibie told the UN envoys they would be allowed to visit the capital tomorrow.

The UN High Commission for Refugees and the Red Cross have also been invited back and given assurances of protection.

The leader of the East Timor rebels, Xanana Gusmao, in the British Embassy in Jakarta after being released on Tuesday, learned last night that his father was among those killed. He told the UN envoys: "I kneel before the Security Council. I kneel before the international community. Please save my people."

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador and one of the UN envoys, said the message to Dr Habibie had been blunt. "Indonesia is not going to live it down unless it makes a very quick correction. We must stop the withdrawal [of the UN]."

East Timor crisis, pages 12 and 13