Subject: SMH: International Team of Military Experts Visits E. Timor

Sydney Morning Herald July 12, 2000

Security advisers visit Timor


An international team of military experts from London's King's College has begun work in East Timor to assess the security needs of the world's newest nation.

Members of the seven-person group will today visit the headquarters of the pro-independence Falintil guerillas at their camp in Aileu, a mountain town 40 kilometres south of Dili.

The team met on Monday with Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

A UN official said the Aileu talks would involve meetings with senior Falintil commanders and fighters of the armed independence group whose bloody 24-year struggle against the Indonesian military finally proved victorious after last year's UN-brokered referendum on self-determination.

Stung by the devastating militia violence that followed the August 30 ballot, the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), the territory's main pro-independence umbrella group, says it wants a 5,000-strong tri-service defence force.

Defence analysts say this is too ambitious for the fledgling nation but agree on the need for a legitimate self-defence force before UNTAET hands over power to a freely elected Timorese Government.

UNTAET says the King's College team will spend two weeks in East Timor before releasing its findings in six weeks. The final report, if approved by the National Consultative Council, East Timor's de facto parliament, will be used as a blueprint for the establishment of the new self-defence force.

Australia has been sounded out to provide a key training and support role by senior East Timorese independence leaders.

However, with relations between Jakarta and Canberra at an all-time low over Australia's role in leading an international peacekeeping force to East Timor last September to end the bloody post-ballot violence, Canberra is likely to be cool on the request.

Diplomatic sources said one option under consideration is for training and support to be jointly provided by Australia, Britain and Canada.

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