New Guinea: Toward West Irian

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Over a horseshoe-shaped table at the United Nations Security Council conference hall in Manhattan, The Netherlands and Indonesia last week formally ended 13 years of bitter wrangling and spasmodic war for possession of the steaming archipelago called New Guinea.

Broadest smile was on the face of Indonesia's Foreign Minister Subandrio, for the document that both sides signed calls for a U.N. police force to take over West New Guinea from the Dutch on Oct. 1, pass it on to the Indonesians seven months later. It was a compromise engineered by retired U.S. Diplomat Ellsworth Bunker, whose plan was swallowed reluctantly by Holland. The Dutch made no secret of their bitterness. Said Premier J. E. de Quay: "Holland could not count on the support of its allies, and for that reason we had to sign."

Under the Bunker plan, the Indonesians promise to hold a plebiscite by 1969, giving the 700,000 native Papuans of West Irian (as the Indonesians call it) a choice of independence or permanent union with the rest of the old Dutch East Indies. The Dutch could only hope that Indonesia would abide by whatever choice the Papuans made.

Next question: Who would boss the tricky U.N. interim administration? First choice of both sides was patient, professional Ellsworth Bunker, 68, who had vainly hoped to go back and relax on his Vermont farm after the tedious, five-month negotiations.