"The security situation has to be brought under control," said Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for Annan. "We think Indonesia is capable of doing that. We continue to appeal to them . . . to clamp down on these renegade elements running around with machetes and weapons."
Eckhard said discussions were taking place in the corridors of U.N. headquarters and among various nations about the possibility of forming a peacekeeping force. Such an impromptu force could move quickly and avoid a long debate in the Security Council that might accompany efforts to set up a formal U.N. peacekeeping mission.
Eckhard stressed, however, that ad hoc contingents of peacekeepers would require an "invitation" from Indonesia and Portugal so "as to not get into a paralyzing council debate over forceful intervention."
In Washington, a spokeswoman for the Navy's Military Sealift Command said the ammunition supply ship Kilauea was standing by for any emergency evacuation. Britain announced Friday that it may divert a destroyer, the Glasgow, from the South China Sea to East Timor.
With security on the ground continuing to deteriorate, the Indonesian military on Friday flew an additional 1,400 elite soldiers to Dili. Gen. Wiranto, Indonesia's defense minister, said the troops would support police in restoring order. Indonesia already has about 18,000 soldiers and 8,000 police officers in the territory.
But the arrival of the additional troops did nothing to calm the fears of most Timorese. Throughout two decades of domination, Indonesia has used its army to repress the province's Timorese majority. Western diplomats saw no reason to believe that there had been any change in the attitude of the military, which does not want to surrender the province it shed blood to conquer in 1975. Generals also have gotten rich plundering the province's teak and sandalwood forests.
To make its point, the army has recruited, trained, paid and supported the thuggish anti-independence militias that have terrorized East Timor for nine months. The military and police forces generally have been unwilling to protect unarmed civilians under attack and have given the militias a free hand in hunting down independence supporters.
Publicly at least, despite its condemnation of the violence, the U.N. and the Western community have accepted Indonesia's argument that the situation is under control and its forces are capable of providing security. The militias have killed as many as 1,000 people since January and sent tens of thousands of terrorized Timorese into the mountains and church compounds.
Times staff writer John J. Goldman at the United Nations and Associated Press contributed to this report.