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By Karen Polglaze, Diplomatic Correspondent

CANBERRA, Australia (November 20, 2000 – AAP/Kabar-Irian)---Australian intervention is needed in Irian Jaya to prevent a catastrophe worse than that seen in East Timor, pro-independence West Papuans said today.

The Australian government is ignoring the plight of the indigenous people of the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya for the sake of relations with Jakarta, said Papuan People's Presidium international moderator Franzalbert Joku.

"By ignoring the crisis in West Papua and by supporting Indonesia's claim Australia could be seen to be turning its back on the situation in West Papua where the indigenous people are totally disadvantaged both economically and socially," Mr. Joku said in a statement.

He said the people of Irian Jaya, which they refer to as West Papua, were determined to win their independence from Indonesia.

"We believe it is our God-given right to exist as a sovereign nation," he said.

"I therefore appeal to all fair-minded Australians to recognize the essence of the Papuan people's plight.

"I believe the time has come for Australia to intervene or we will soon be witnessing a civil catastrophe of far greater scale and intensity than was ever inflicted over East Timor."

Australia has repeatedly said it supports Indonesian sovereignty over Irian Jaya and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer last week said there would be a bloodbath if Indonesian provinces tried to secede.

Last week, two additional battalions of troops were sent into the resource-rich province ahead of the December 1 anniversary of the day in 1961 when tribal chiefs declared their independence.

Indonesian security forces have in the past brutally quashed attempts by West Papuans to mark the anniversary by raising the pro-independence morning star flag.

Mr. Joku will later this week travel to New Zealand where he will meet Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

The former Dutch colony was not originally included in the Indonesian archipelago that won independence from the Netherlands following World War II, but was incorporated into Indonesia after a plebiscite in 1969.

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

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