- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

INDONESIA

50,000 troops may go to Aceh if talks fail

BANDA ACEH — Indonesia will send up to 50,000 troops to Aceh province to give the military the strength it needs to defeat separatist rebels, a military official said yesterday.

Lt. Col. Firdaus Komarno, spokesman for the Indonesian military in Aceh, said government forces want to outnumber rebels of the GAM (Free Aceh Movement) by 10 to 1. The government estimates there are 5,000 GAM fighters in the staunchly Muslim, resource-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra.

A major offensive against the rebels could come in days if talks between the two sides, expected tomorrow in Tokyo, fail to resolve differences that have brought a peace accord reached in December to the verge of collapse.

PHILIPPINES

MILF gets ultimatum for June 1 cease-fire

MANILA — The military is ready for a renewed war against Muslim separatist guerrillas if the rebels do not comply with an ultimatum to cease attacking civilians by June 1, a senior officer said yesterday.

“What we plan is not all-out war. We do not want to set Mindanao on fire. We will be punitive and selective in our actions against these kind of incidents,” said Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, vice chief of staff.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has given the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) until June 1 to stop attacking civilians and disavow links with terrorist groups or it will be branded terrorists, reducing chances of further peace talks.

VIETNAM

Tons of U.S. defoliant discovered in Kon Tum

HANOI — Nearly 40 boxes labeled “CX” believed to contain more than a dozen tons of toxic defoliant used by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War have been found in the central highlands, military sources said at midweek.

Military officials in Kon Tum province, more than 600 miles south of Hanoi, said 38 crates, each weighing between 220 and 440 pounds, were discovered at the end of March by rural workers in Ngoc Hoi district. The army seized the material and “took measures to protect the environment and the health of inhabitants,” said a military spokesman in Kon Tum.

Weekly notes …

Australia has issued heightened warnings for travel to Southeast Asia, saying the organizers of last year’s Bali bombing retain the ability to make further attacks. As the first suspect in the Bali attack went on trial this week, the government raised warning levels covering Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, East Timor, Singapore and Brunei and Indonesia, advising Australians to defer nonessential travel…. A state of emergency was declared in the Northern Mariana Islands Wednesday as an erupting volcano appeared to gain strength and sent large quantities of ash over a wide area. The volcano on Anatahan — an island of 12.5 square miles some 200 miles north of Guam — erupted Saturday without warning. A small island 6 miles by 2 miles, Anatahan has two peaks; its coastline is precipitous but there are sea landings on the north and west and a small sandy beach on the southwest shore.

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