to U.N. peacekeepers in Timor set to begin
Transfer to U.N. peacekeepers in Timor set to begin
By Joanne Collins
DILI, East Timor, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The United Nations will begin one of its biggest and most expensive military commitments next week when around 2,100 multinational troops in East Timor's eastern regions take on the role of U.N. peacekeepers.
U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters on Monday that Korean, Thai and Filipino troops would be the first to make the transition, on February 1, from the multinational force INTERFET which was deployed to restore order in East Timor.
``The process of the transition will be progressive, the first forces that will become peackeepers will be those in sector east -- the Korean battalion in Los Palos, the Thai battalion in Baucau and Viqueque and the Filipino battalion in Manatuto,'' de Almeida e Silva said.
The Portuguese and Kenyan battalions would be deployed in the central regions and Australian, Brazilian, Irish, New Zealand and Pakistani troops would be stationed in the west, including the border region, he said.
The commander of the peacekeeping operation, Lieutenant General Jaime Delos Santos of the Philippines, will arrive in Dili on Tuesday to take up his post.
The only controversy surrounding the peacekeeping operation is the deployment of Jordanian troops in the sensitive enclave of Oecussi, which is surrounded by Indonesia's West Timor.
The decision has been condemned by several East Timorese leaders -- notably Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta -- who allege close links between the Jordanian government and Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of Indonesia's former president Suharto and former leader of the Kopassus special forces.
Kopassus generals have been accused by independence leaders of masterminding last September's bloodshed in East Timor, following the territory's vote for independence after more than two decades of often brutal Indonesian rule.
Parts of the enclave have recently been designated as high-risk due to a spate of border incursions by gangs of armed militia.
The transition to a peacekeeping role from the Australian-led INTERFET is expected to be finished by the end of February when there will be a handover ceremony in the capital Dili.
Some 23 nations will contribute to the peacekeeping operation which is expected to build to around 8,900 troops, 80 percent of whom will have transfered from INTERFET.
The only new contributing nations will be Bangladesh, Pakistan and Portugal, whose troops will arrive in the former Portuguese colony next month.
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