Subject: New Zealand troops in East Timor told to stay alert

Also: UN BOSS FURY; Text of Bin-Laden's remarks

New Zealand troops in East Timor told to stay alert

WELLINGTON, Nov 5 (AFP) - Prime Minister Helen Clark Monday urged New Zealand soldiers in East Timor "to stay on alert" after threats from suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to target United Nations peacekeepers there.

In a video released at the weekend, bin Laden attacked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whom he called a criminal for separating East Timor from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Bin Laden also singled out Australia as part of the "conspiracy" to separate East Timor from the Muslim world.

Clark said that troops were treating the threat seriously.

"My message to them would be to stay on alert."

But she downplayed any heightened danger, saying they were already prepared for all manner of threats.

"They are in an area that's been assessed as at the highest level of risk right from the beginning ... New Zealand and Australian troops have been on the border (with West Timor), which is right on the front line. So they've been more exposed than anyone else."

East Timor has been under UN administration since it voted in 1999 for independence from Indonesia. Australian and New Zealand peacekeeping troops have played a leading role in maintaining peace in the territory for the past two years.

Clark said bin Laden's threats were becoming increasingly desperate.

"Bin Laden was sort of already way out in far field and extremist territory, but when he extends his attacks from the US to the whole United Nations, he is in a league of his own and it's just absolutely crazy stuff.

"It would certainly have no effect on the commitment New Zealand has made to East Timor."

Saudi-born bin Laden is Washington's prime suspect in the September 11 terror attacks on the US.


TEXT: Bin Laden statement broadcast on al-Jazeera TV [excerpt via Reuters]

Look at the position of the Europeans and the United Nations towards events in Indonesia, when they moved to divide the biggest Muslim country in terms of population. This criminal Kofi Annan speaks publicly and puts pressure on the government of Indonesia, saying it had 24 hours to let go of East Timor. We should not look at this event as separate. It is part of a long chain of plots. It is a war of annihilation.

The Sun November 6, 2001 UN BOSS FURY

Kofi Annan added: "When bin Laden maintains that democracy and human rights are only products of the West, I find that insulting for the people of the Third World whom he pretends to defend."

The UN chief's remarks in France's Le Figaro newspaper came after the terror chief branded him a criminal in a videotaped statement broadcast at the weekend.

Bin Laden singled out Annan's pressure on Muslim Indonesia to end its rule of East Timor as an example of a "chain of plots" by the UN against Islam.


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