UN shares blame for Timor riots, Indonesia says

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JAKARTA, Oct 24 (Reuters) The United Nations and Portugal must share responsibility for violence that marred East Timor's 1999 vote for independence, a former general told a truth commission investigating the bloodshed.

Kiki Syahnakri was appointed commander of the Indonesian military in East Timor in September 1999 after pro-Jakarta militiamen went on a violent rampage in the wake of the independence vote.

Syahnakri told the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), set up by East Timor and Indonesia to delve into the violence, that the United Nations had conspired to sway the vote in favour of independence and should share the blame for the mayhem.

''Indonesia can't, and does not deserve to be, entirely held responsible for the riots, because Portugal, elements in the international community and the United Nations played some role in bringing about the riots,'' he told the commission's final hearings in Jakarta.

Indonesia, former colonial ruler Portugal, and the United Nations signed an agreement that authorised the vote.

The CTF was set up to promote reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor, but critics say the commission is toothless because it lacks the power to punish those found responsible for abuses.

Syahnakri said international pressure on the Indonesian military was ''unreasonable''.

''Since the beginning, the United Nations and elements in the international community had an agenda for an independent East Timor and were not interested in a fair and impartial vote,'' he said.

The United Nations has boycotted the commission's hearings, arguing that the body could recommend amnesty for those involved in gross rights violations.

Pro-Jakarta militiamen, backed by members of the Indonesian army, rioted before and after the vote that ended 24 years of Jakarta rule, destroying much of the territory's infrastructure.

The United Nations estimates about 1,000 East Timorese were killed but Indonesian officials have told the truth commission that only about 100 people were killed.

Predominantly Catholic East Timor became fully independent in May 2002 after more than two years of UN administration.

REUTERS SG BD1500

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