The United States and the United Nations ratcheted up rhetorical pressure on Indonesia yesterday, with President Clinton branding militia violence in East Timor "simply unacceptable" and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan raising the specter of war crimes charges.
"It is now clear that the Indonesian military is aiding and abetting the militia violence," Clinton said in a statement issued aboard Air Force One as he flew to a meeting of Pacific leaders in New Zealand. "This is simply unacceptable." [Clinton later suspended military sales to Indonesia to put pressure on the government to end the violence in East Timor and restore order. White House press secretary Joe Lockhart could not immediately identify what transactions might be effected by Clinton's order but said he believed it would involved hundreds of millions of dollars.]
In New York, Annan called on Indonesia's leaders to allow an international peacekeeping force into East Timor, which has been engulfed by violence since it voted to become independent from Indonesia in a referendum last week.
In his harshest criticism yet, the secretary general warned that if Indonesia continues to resist international help, it "cannot escape responsibility for what could amount . . . to crimes against humanity."
"Those responsible for these crimes must be called to account," he said.
Pentagon officials said a 10-person military team arrived in Australia yesterday to help plan for an Australian-led peacekeeping force that could restore order after a week of killing, burning, and looting. U.S. participation would be limited to providing transportation, intelligence and various forms of logistical support, the officials said, while the forces on the ground would come from Asian nations. Annan said New Zealand, Malaysia and the Philippines had pledged to participate.
But it remained unclear whether such a force would be sent to East Timor given Indonesia's opposition. U.N. officials said they would decide on a course of action only after the return of a U.N. delegation from Indonesia next week.
During a refueling stopover in Hawaii yesterday, Clinton spoke by phone to Australian Prime Minister John Howard and was briefed by the chief U.S. military commander for the Pacific region. Clinton also phoned key members of Congress, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), to seek support for American involvement in an international force.
White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said the United States had not "ruled anything out" in terms of its possible role. But Warner said the plans under consideration were limited to logistics, communications, transport and intelligence. "At this moment there is no consideration of boots on the ground," Warner said.
Like many other Republican leaders, Warner previously has criticized the administration for overextending the armed forces by making too many commitments in too many parts of the world. He said he decided to back a deployment to East Timor because "at the moment we foresee a very modest amount of U.S. participation but a very high return in the symbolic value of not turning our backs on a fledgling democracy and of showing that we value our close relations with Australia."
U.S. officials also spelled out the extent of the damage the violence in East Timor has done to U.S. military ties with Indonesia.
The Pentagon said yesterday that U.S. arms sales to Indonesia -- about $2.5 million since 1997 -- are "under review." It also announced that as a result of the suspension of U.S. relations with the Indonesian military, plans for earmarking money to finance joint exercises and training during fiscal 2000 have been canceled. Also, invitations have been withdrawn for three Indonesian military officers who were scheduled to attend a course next week in Hawaii at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. A small number of American military personnel in Indonesia, most working on engineering projects, were also being withdrawn, Pentagon officials said.
Annan's stern rhetoric followed a night of attacks on the U.N. compound in Dili.
The secretary general said that the Indonesian military had utterly failed to meet its obligation to bring calm despite the imposition of martial law. He urged other countries to increase pressure on Indonesia.
"We should all put our collective pressure on Indonesia, given that it has failed in its commitment to assure security, to accept assistance from the international community to stop the killing," he said.
"Before the eyes of the world, the people of East Timor are being terrorized and massacred," Annan added. "The time has clearly come for Indonesia to seek the help of the international community in fulfilling its responsibility to bring order and security."
Stanley Fischer, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, described the situation as a political and humanitarian disaster. "That is a problem for the entire international community, and that, inevitably, will be taken into account by our membership," he said.
Staff writer Roberto Suro contributed to this report.