Subject: U.N. says militia infiltrate deep into East Timor

U.N. says militia infiltrate deep into East Timor

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Pro-Jakarta militia in Indonesian West Timor have abandoned hit and run attacks on East Timor and begun infiltrating deeper into the territory, the United Nation's senior official in East Timor said on Monday.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, in Australia for celebrations to mark the United Nations' 55th anniversary on Tuesday, said he would raise the issue with Australia to ensure U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor had the military capacity to deal with the militias.

It is believed the U.N. wants Australia, which supplies the bulk of U.N. peacekeepers, to be more flexible with the rules of engagement in East Timor.

"There has been an obvious change in the tactics by the militia since late July," de Mello told a news conference in Sydney before heading to Canberra for talks.

"Until then they would launch very short, hit and run, cross border attacks against UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor) positions in East Timor and then run back to West Timor and seek sanctuary," he said.

"In the last two and a half months there have been deeper infiltrations by groups, varying from five to 30 men, who have reached sector central."

The towns of Alas and Same are in this area and are 50-60 km (30-40 miles) south-southeast of the East Timor capital Dili.

"Some (militia) have been there for several weeks and we are obviously concerned that this might represent a new trend," del Mello said.

Indonesia supported the militias in a failed bid to influence the outcome of last year's U.N.-brokered ballot in East Timor, in which Timorese overwhelmingly voted to end Jakarta's rule.

The militias went on a rampage of violence but were forced to retreat into West Timor, where they have terrorised East Timorese stranded in refugee camps.

The U.N. and other international aid agencies pulled their staff out of volatile West Timor after militias butchered three U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) workers in the border town of Atambua on September 6.

De Mello said UNTAET must be ready for any increase in militia infiltrations in coming weeks.

"I will take advantage of my visit to Canberra to make sure Australia helps us create a maximum reaction capacity," he said. De Mello plans to meet Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and defence force chief Admiral Chris Barrie on Tuesday.


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