Lisbon – Reported reprisals against East Timorese for an attack by resistance fighters on Indonesian troops threaten upcoming talks on the future of the territory, resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta said Tuesday.
"The arrests and human rights violations could endanger the dialogue" between Indonesia and Portugal, the former colonial power in East Timor, which is due to resume later this month under United Nations mediation, he said.
Ramos Horta, the current holder of the Nobel Peace Prize, was interviewed by the Portuguese news agency LUSA from San Francisco.
International Portuguese radio, quoting local resistance sources, said Monday that Indonesian troops killed 16 young people at Los Palos in East Timor in a reprisal action after recent clashes between pro-independence guerrillas and the army.
The radio said dozens of young people accused of supporting the rebels had been rounded up after Indonesian troops were killed in a recent rebel attack.
A rebel source in Lisbon said two companies of Indonesial special forces arrived Monday at Baucau, east of the Timorese capital Dili, to reinforce security in the former Portuguese colony annexed by Indonesia in 1976.
On Saturday 18 Indonesian police and soldiers were killed and nine wounded in a rebel attack in Baucau.
On Monday Ramos Horta said he regarded such attacks, which he refused to condemn, as "a very serious warning to the Indonesian side that they must negotiate seriously with the secretary-general of the United Nations to find a quick resolution to the conflict."
He added: "I do not believe that violence or armed resistance can resolve a problem that is political. It's a case of self-determination, so Indonesia should not try to resolve it by force."
In a separate development, a defector from the East Timor independence movement Fretilin, Abilio Araujo, said here Tuesday that a cement works built with the aid of US capital was planned for Baucau.
Araujo, who described himself as "a moderate nationalist," said the 480 million dollar plant would employ 1,500 people, producing 2,300 tonnes of cement a year for the Indonesian domestic market and Australia. He said that Indonesian President Suharto's adviser on East Timor, Lopes da Cruz, and governor Abilio Osorio were both shareholders in the enterprise, named PT Semen Timor Lorossai.