``I have ordered the governor (of Maluku province) to work as hard as he can to control the situation,'' President Abdurrahman Wahid said.
``If the outcome is still not satisfactory after we have done our best, we may ask for international help in the form of equipment and logistics,'' he told a meeting of regional administrators.
Wahid's surprise policy reversal came a day after television footage for the first time showed Indonesian soldiers assisting Muslim militants in an attack on a Christian neighborhood in the islands.
Christian clerics in the Malukus, located about 1,600 miles northeast of Jakarta, have repeatedly warned that elements of the army were siding with Muslim paramilitaries from Indonesia's main island of Java who have infiltrated into the archipelago.
``I think this latest violence was orchestrated by the army troops,'' Bishop Joseph Tethool, the Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop in Ambon, said Monday.
``They're not willing to stop the fighting,'' he said. ``We appeal again for neutral forces from overseas to mediate between the warring groups.''
The Indonesian government last month imposed a state of emergency in the Malukus, an archipelago with about 2.1 million people. Muslims account for about 85 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people, but Muslims and Christians are almost evenly split in the Malukus.
In footage shot over the weekend by Associated Press Television News, Indonesian soldiers were seen providing covering fire for Muslim fighters sprinting across a deserted street as they attacked a Christian neighborhood.
The militants were armed with homemade weapons and army-issue Garand M1 carbines and Colt M-16 rifles. They also carried the SS-1, an Indonesian version of a Belgian-made automatic rifle, which is only available to army troops in this country.
The footage showed an army Saladin armored car rumbling into position, its cannon swiveling in the direction of the Christian neighborhood, in an apparent attempt to cover the withdrawal of the paramilitaries.
Senior government officials in Jakarta have accused supporters of Indonesia's former dictator Suharto of inciting fighting in the Malukus in an attempt to destabilize Wahid's eight-month-old government.