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Report cites East Timor suffering

Newspaper: U.N. says Indonesia used starvation

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President Xanana Gusmao, shown with Cabinet members in Dili in May 2005.

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Harsh policies by Indonesia's military during its 24-year occupation of East Timor led to the deaths of up to 180,000 people, a U.N. report cited by The Australian newspaper claims.

The newspaper said it had obtained a copy of the 2,500-page report by the U.N.'s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, which was sponsored by international donors.

It says the report claims Indonesia's military used starvation as a weapon against East Timor's civilian population, with the deaths of between 84,000 and 183,000 people attributable to this policy between 1975 and 1999.

Indonesia invaded and annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in December 1975, with the acquiescence of major powers and neighbors such as Australia.

But after a long and brutal occupation and a costly war against the Fretilin resistance movement, Indonesia allowed an independence vote for East Timor in August 1999.

This vote, which saw the East Timorese opt overwhelmingly for independence rather than autonomy, precipitated bloody reprisals by Indonesian-backed militia groups. About 1,500 people died in fighting before order was restored by an international force comprised mainly of Australian troops.

After a transitional period under U.N. administration, East Timor became an independent nation in May 2002. The tiny state, also known as Timor-Leste, is Asia's poorest country. About 90 percent of its 800,000 people follow the Roman Catholic faith.

The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation handed its report to East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao last October, according to The Australian.

Gusmao, the former Fretilin leader, is due to give the report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday.

Despite the memories of violence during the Indonesian occupation period, East Timor's leadership has sought to foster a better relationship with Jakarta since independence.

But release of the new report is likely to inflame tensions between East Timorese and Indonesian militia groups that are still active near the East Timor border.

According to The Australian, the commission's report documents thousands of instances of torture and execution of East Timorese by the Indonesian military. It says thousands of women were raped during the occupation.

"Rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence were tools used as part of the campaign designed to inflict a deep experience of terror, powerlessness and hopelessness upon pro-independence supporters," the commission found, according to the newspaper's report.

It also says napalm and chemical weapons were used by Indonesian soldiers.

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