|Subject: SMH/E.Timor: Peacekeepers set to
shoot without warning
Sydney Morning Herald September 6, 2000
Peacekeepers set to shoot without warning
By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Suai, and agencies
United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor will be allowed to shoot without warning under new rules of engagement expected to be formalised soon.
Brigadier Duncan Lewis, the Australian commander of UN peacekeepers based along the volatile western border with Indonesia, said the new rules were aimed at saving peacekeepers' lives.
He said peacekeepers currently had verbal orders to fire first if they felt they had come under direct armed threat, such as when they encountered an armed militia patrol.
But there was no directive in the UN Rules of Engagement that stated this was permissible, and this omission could result in a dangerous delay in reaction time.
"Currently it is necessary, as in all peacekeeping operations, for warnings to be issued so long as you are not under direct threat," Brigadier Lewis said. "Now, under the new rules, there is a higher degree of clarity.
"We will not put soldiers in harm's way with unfair rules of engagement."
The Thai commander of the 7,800 peacekeepers, Lieutenant-General Boonsrang Niumpradit, said the rules of engagement must be eased to avert more casualties among peacekeepers.
"In the jungle, we are not too happy about having to shout first, and then we get fired at first. It's just suicidal," he said in Dili. "We need to be flexible, otherwise we will get our people killed."
UN headquarters in New York had been asked to "amplify" the rules.
Brigadier Lewis said the new rules would not have changed the outcome of two armed clashes with militia in which two UN peacekeepers were killed.
Mark Riley reports from New York: The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, will urge the United Nations this week to maintain its resolve in East Timor, countering internal UN moves to bring forward the withdrawal of peacekeepers from the territory.
Mr Howard is expected to meet the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, and the leaders of Indonesia and Portugal today to discuss the East Timor mission.
In recent weeks, Australia has voiced concerns through diplomatic channels that the focus on East Timor has begun to fade at UN headquarters.
The UN's peacekeeping department has been stretched to breaking point as missions to the African troublespots of Sierra Leone, the Congo and the Eritrean-Ethiopian border have drained valuable resources.
United Nations officials began discussing the possibility of bringing forward the partial withdrawal of peacekeepers from East Timor several weeks ago after a visit to New York by the head of the UN mission, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Those discussions were put on hold after a New Zealand peacekeeper was shot dead during a raid across the border by West Timorese militia last month.
Mr Howard will argue that the continued volatility of the border region demands an increased, rather than decreased, UN presence as the emerging nation moves towards its first general elections.
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