Indonesia defiant over Timor

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The Independent Online
DILI, East Timor - Indonesia yesterday angrily rejected a US Senate decision to curb small arms sales to the Jakarta government over the situation in East Timor, after two days of violent clashes last week.

The government said it would not accept any conditions for arms sales from the United States. The US Senate, responding to calls to send a strong message to Indonesia on human rights, voted unanimously to restrict small arms sales to Indonesia and to provide money to human rights groups there.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman said: 'We are indeed unhappy to hear this. However, it will only press us to look for other sources such as Great Britain for the procurement of small arms.'

Indonesia yesterday was preparing to mark the 18th anniversary of its annexation of the territory. The Timorese capital, Dili, was awash with red and white Indonesian national flags and banners hailing 'integration'. But Dili residents feared more violence after riot troops on Thursday fired tear-gas and then broke up a protest march by 200 demonstrators marching to the local parliament building.

Officials from the Red Cross said on Friday they were investigating claims that up to four people had been killed during Thursday's clash. East Timor's Fretilin resistance movement said yesterday it believed 22 people were under arrest and nine were missing.

Residents reported that Catholic youths were trying to repair religious icons wrecked by security forces during the clash. Troops smashed a cross, ripped Catholic banners and tore rosaries from the necksof protesters as they barred hundreds of youths from leaving Dili's main university campus for the protest march.

The protest was sparked after Timorese students attacked and injured three Indonesian youths for allegedly insulting two nuns. Residents said religious tension had resurfaced in recent weeks after growing harassment of Catholics.

In one incident last month, troops entered a church and disturbed a service, reportedly spitting out and stamping on communion wafers. Agencies