CONFERENCES: Impasse Over Irian

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Dutch newsmen at The Hague conference, where Indonesia and The Netherlands were trying to settle the status of West New Guinea (or Irian, as the Indonesians call it), knew that negotiations had reached a delicate impasse. It was no time to confront the sensitive Indonesians with a blunt question, so the newsmen last week delicately sounded out Foreign Minister Mohamed Rum. "Are you happy?" they asked. "I am not happy," answered Rum. What he meant was: "The conference has failed. The political weather ahead is bad."

In three weeks of palaver the Indonesians had clung to their demand that the

Dutch cede them sovereignty over West New Guinea. The Dutch had countered with proposals for 1) a plebiscite among the colony's primitive Melanesian tribesmen, 2) a New Guinea Council with Indonesian representation, 3) a condominium under The Netherlands-Indonesian Union, 4) continued negotiation through the U.N. Last week, on the conference's closing day, the Indonesians rejected all halfway measures: "We cannot accept the continuation of Dutch administration in West Irian ... a territory which in our opinion is a part of our country." Two days later Minister Rum flew back home.

In Jakarta, where the Republican government of President Soekarno had staked its position and prestige on getting title to West Irian, the political weather quickly turned squally. The country's nationalistic press raised a clamor for ending Indonesia's twelve-month-old union with The Netherlands.