Crisis in East Timor Heightens as the UN Closes Its Mission

Article excerpt

The political cleansing of East Timor continued yesterday with the United Nations saying it was pulling out of its besieged headquarters in East Timor's devastated capital.

Houses were burning just 40 yards from the UN compound in the provincial capital of Dili, where the electricity and phones had already been cut.

Witnesses who ventured into the deserted Dili streets said Indonesian soldiers were participating in looting, carrying furniture out of abandoned houses and loading it onto trucks.

In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, armed forces chief General Wiranto denied rampant rumors that President B.J. Habibie would be forced to step down because of his handling of the crisis.

A high-level UN delegation in Jakarta to seek ways to restore order in Timor held two hours of talks yesterday with Indonesia's foreign minister, but there was no sign peace was any closer.

The United Nations organized the Aug. 30 referendum that overwhelmingly approved independence, but also triggered a wild and murderous backlash from pro-Jakarta militias aided by Indonesian troops and police.

Australia is leading a call for an international peacekeeping force to be assembled. But most nations say they won't go into East Timor unless invited by the Indonesian government.

"We have to be selective where we commit our forces and, under the circumstances, this is not an area that we are prepared to commit forces," US Defense Secretary William Cohen said yesterday. …