Clinton warns Indonesia as U.S. severs military relations
September 9, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton on Thursday suspended immediately all U.S. "programs of military cooperation" with Indonesia and warned Jakarta that economic aid would also end unless the violence in East Timor was stopped.
The president predicted "very dire" economic consequences for Indonesia because of the East Timor crisis, saying his willingness to support future assistance "will depend very strongly" on the outcome of that crisis.
The United States has veto power over billions of dollars in International Monetary Fund loans to Indonesia, and some U.S. lawmakers are calling for the funds, aimed at helping Indonesia emerge from a severe recession, to be cut unless Jakarta brings an end to the violence.
"It would be a pity if the Indonesian recovery were crashed by this," Clinton said. "But one way or the other it will be crashed by this if they don't fix it. ... Nobody is going to want to continue to invest there if they're allowing this sort of travesty to go on."
Clinton spoke from the White House lawn a few hours before he was to depart for the Asian Pacific Economic Conference in New Zealand, where Indonesia's actions in East Timor are destined to be a topic of discussion.
Clinton said people all over the world were frustrated by Indonesia's inability or unwillingness to stop the post-election violence, brought by anti-independence militias against the East Timorese who voted to separate from Indonesia.
"They either can't -- or won't -- stop the violence," said Clinton, "but they don't want to admit they can't, so they don't want to ask anybody else to come in."
He continued: "If Indonesia does not end the violence, it must invite -- it must invite -- the international community to assist in restoring security. It must move forward in the transition to independence."
Clinton noted Indonesia has a complex political system and it may not be clear who has authority to open the door to outside help. It was also possible, he said, that some people in power didn't like the results of the referendum on independence and are "trying to undo it by running people out of the country or into the grave."
It was the president's first direct policy statement on the worsening situation in East Timor, and initial international reaction was positive.
Portugal's ambassador to the United Nations, Antonio Montiero, told CNN that Clinton "touched all the right bases."
Portugal has demanded that an international peacekeeping force go into East Timor, with or without Jakarta's assent.
East Timor is a former Portuguese colony.
But with U.S. troops stretched by deployments in Kosovo, Bosnia and the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon has no appetite for committing its ground troops to another open-ended peacekeeping mission.
"Certainly, if you look at East Timor by itself, I cannot see any national interest there that would be overwhelming, that would call for us to deploy or place U.S. forces on the ground in that area," Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
The U.S. decision to suspend all ties to the Indonesia military was delivered personally to Gen. Wiranto, the chief of Indonesia's armed forces, by Navy Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific.
The military suspension is largely symbolic. With no pending military sales and no planned exercises, the cut-off amounts to ending a $500,000 training program, in which a dozen or so Indonesia military officers come to the United States to study.
Indonesia was a key ally during the Vietnam War, but Washington reduced aid to Indonesia's military about a year ago because of allegations of human rights abuses by special forces.
White House: E. Timor crisis putting Indonesia to test
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