WASHINGTON -- Stepping up the pressure on Indonesia, President Clinton and other world leaders yesterday called on Jakarta to reverse itself and immediately invite United Nations peacekeeping forces to stop the mayhem engulfing East Timor.
President Clinton described the situation as "deteriorating" and said it had become clear that the Indonesian army was helping the militias that have been murdering pro-independence East Timorese and U.N. workers.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also called on Jakarta to ask for the peacekeepers.
"The time has clearly come for Indonesia to seek the help of the international community in fulfilling its responsibility to bring order and security to the people of East Timor," Annan said at the United Nations. "I have been in frequent contact with the president of Indonesia, urging him to bring the situation under control.
"But it continues to deteriorate."
Previously, Annan and other world leaders had left open the possibility that Indonesia could quell the violence itself.
White House officials continued to downplay any U.S. role on a peacekeeping mission, which Australia has offered to lead. National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger indicated yesterday that Washington is more likely to provide hardware and support than troops.
"I think that what the Australians are most interested in [from Washington] are those things that we have a special capability in: logistics and communications, intelligence and airlift," he said.
But, he added, "I don't think anything is ruled out here."
Clinton and Berger, traveling to New Zealand for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One after being briefed by U.S. military officials.
New Zealand, the Philippines and Malaysia also have offered to join an international force in East Timor, Annan said.
Pro-Indonesian militiamen in East Timor reportedly have killed hundreds, looted houses and destroyed property since nearly 80 percent of the population voted for independence from Jakarta on Aug. 30.
A former Portuguese colony with a population only a little larger than Baltimore's, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia in 1975. Most of the world does not recognize the occupation.
Numerous reports have indicated that, while the Indonesian military has not significantly participated in the violence, it has done little to stop it, either.
"It is now clear that the Indonesian military is aiding and abetting the militia violence," Clinton said. "This is simply unacceptable . The Indonesian government and military must reverse this course, to do everything possible to stop the violence, and allow an international force to make possible the restoration of security."
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Indonesian West Timor or hidden in the jungle, officials said. The United Nations on Thursday evacuated most of its staff from its compound in Dili, East Timor's capital.
Yesterday militiamen entered a lot next to the compound, firing shots into the air, wrecking cars and threatening those inside, the Associated Press reported. About 80 U.N. workers remained as well as hundreds of East Timorese seeking refuge.
The Vatican has complained that militiamen are killing priests and nuns in predominantly Roman Catholic East Timor, Indonesia's only province where Christians are a majority. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday called for immediate intervention, saying, "Not only is East Timor experiencing human rights violations on a massive scale, it is also undergoing a brutal and systematic religious persecution."
Indonesian officials continued to resist pleas for international intervention. "We must first calm down the situation in East Timor so that U.N. forces will be welcome by all East Timorese people," said Gen. Wiranto, the Indonesian armed forces chief. "But we are open for future discussions on such matters."
U.S. and Australian officials are extremely reluctant to put troops on East Timor without Indonesia's OK, analysts said.
"Even if we have the permission of the central government, any force that lands in East Timor today is going to meet some resistance," said David Newsom, who was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia from 1974 to 1977. "But without permission, as one Australian official said, it's going to be a pretty bloody matter, and I don't think anybody is ready for that."
Earlier in the week, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund froze assistance to Indonesia, the beneficiary of a $49 billion restructuring program that resulted from last year's Asian economic crisis. Indonesia's stock market and its currency, the rupiah, have plunged in recent days, jeopardizing its fragile recovery.
Clinton on Thursday suspended joint U.S.-Indonesian military exercises, a largely symbolic move. Yesterday the Pentagon raised a potentially bigger incentive, saying that U.S. arms sales to Indonesia are "under review."
U.S. officials are afraid that deploying an international peace force without Jakarta's approval also might sabotage Indonesia' nascent democracy.
"Here we have a country that's very important to us -- fourth largest country in the world," said Robert Manning, an Asia specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
"They've just been through their version of the Great Depression. And they've just had their first democratic election in 35 years, which went, as far as I'm concerned, much better than anybody expected."
Indonesian President J. B. Habibie is unpopular with the country's military, and another worry is that unsanctioned, outside intervention would precipitate a coup.