BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE PROBES CLAIM HAWK AIRCRAFT USED IN WEST PAPUA

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CRACKDOWN

By Andrew Parker in London and Tom McCawley in Jakarta

JAKARTA, Indonesia and LONDON, England (October 4, 2000 – Financial Times of London/Joyo Indonesian News/Kabar-Irian)---The Foreign Office is investigating allegations that British-made Hawk military aircraft have been used to crackdown on the independence movement in Papua, a province of Indonesia.

Although Britain does not support secession for Papua, also known as Irian Jaya, the government is committed to preventing the sale of arms to regimes that would use them for internal repression.

The Indonesia Human Rights Campaign said the Hawk aircraft were conducting operations over Papua's towns "in a show of strength designed to frighten local people and intimidate supporters of independence."

Robin Cook, foreign secretary, suffered embarrassment over his "ethical" foreign policy shortly after the 1997 election when the government decided to proceed with the supply of Hawks to Indonesia.

The previous Tory administration had approved contracts for British Aerospace to sell 16 Hawks to the Indonesian Air Force. The government was given legal advice that it would be difficult to revoke the contracts.

Mr. Cook sought assurances from the Indonesian government in July last year that the Hawks would not be used to thwart freedom of expression or violate other human rights after they were deployed over East Timor in the run up to a referendum on independence.

East Timor was annexed by Indonesia in 1975 but its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in August last year.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's vice president, is believed to favor a tough approach to dealing with the independence movement in Papua, which contains the world's largest gold mine.

The Foreign Office said the Indonesian authorities had indicated the Hawk aircraft were involved in a "training exercise" over Papua.

"We know there are discrepancies between that account and what some of the non-governmental organizations are saying," it said. "We are talking to the Indonesians about those discrepancies."

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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