Subject: US, Aussies Call for End to Timor Peace Mission [+UN News Service]

Also: U.S. Opposes Annan's East Timor Proposal


March 1, 2005

Call to End Timor Peace Mission

The United States and Australia today called for ending the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor when its mandate expires in May, going against recommendations by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The United States was the only Security Council member not to endorse Annan's recent call to extend peacekeeping operations of a scaled-down United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) for a year until May 2006.

The Bush administration, however, was backed by Australia, which sent soldiers to East Timor to keep order in 1999 after Indonesian military-backed violence left 1,400 people dead.

The United States, which pays more than a quarter of UN peacekeeping costs, said Timor no longer represented an international security threat that required peacekeepers.

Annan's report praised the progress made by East Timor, formally known as Timor-Leste, since breaking from Indonesia but said support was still needed to resolve a dispute over the border with Indonesia, improve its police force, develop justice and financial institutions and fight political corruption and human rights violations.

He called for cutting military personnel from 472 troops to 179 in addition to civilian advisers.

"It is clear to us that the peacekeeping phase of Timor-Leste's path to full sufficiency can now be concluded," said US delegate Reed Fendrick, who suggested UN support might continue in the form of a political mission.

"There is no longer a threat to international peace and security requiring a peacekeeping mission."

The General Assembly appropriated $US85.2 million ($A107.75 million) for the mission for the year ending June 30, 2005. The United States pays 27 per cent of the cost of UN peacekeeping operations.

The Security Council will vote on whether to extend the peacekeeping mandate before it expires.

East Timor recently held elections in two districts with plans for more in the coming months. It has agreed on about 96 per cent of its border demarcation with Indonesia.

The Timorese, who experienced centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and then 24 years of occupation by Indonesia, voted overwhelmingly in August 1999 to break free, prompting an orgy of violence and Australia's intervention.

The United Nations ran the territory until independence in May 2002. The peacekeeping mission numbered 11,000 troops and civilians when first authorised.

A stream of speakers in the open council session praised the East Timor "success story" and advocated extending the mission following a briefing by UN envoy Sukehiro Hasegawa and a speech by Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta.

"Since 1999 you have made a tremendous contribution to what remains one of the most successful UN stories in the world," Ramos-Horta said in seeking a 6-12 month mission extension.

Australian Ambassador John Dauth backed the US position.

"In our view the current external security environment of Timor-Leste does not warrant the continuation of peacekeepers on the border," Dauth said.

- Reuters


U.S. Opposes Annan's East Timor Proposal

February 28, 2005 10:58pm AP Online

UNITED NATIONS_The United States said Monday it opposes Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation for a one-year extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in East Timor, saying there is no longer a threat to peace between the tiny country and its powerful neighbor Indonesia.

At an open Security Council meeting, East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta appealed to members for a final yearlong extension to strengthen the fledgling military, police, and government institutions.

"I am ... sure that you do not want to be remembered by the East Timorese as having turned down a last request, a very modest one, but a critical one," he said.

The people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999, unleashing a wave of killing, looting and burning by the Indonesian military and its proxy militias that displaced 300,000 people.

For 2 1/2 years, the United Nations administered the territory, then handed it to the Timorese in May 2002. A U.N. mission has remained.

Many council members were sympathetic to Annan's recommendation to keep a scaled-down mission, though European Union members did not specify whether it should be a peacekeeping mission with troops or a civilian peace-building mission.

In a report to the council last week, Annan called for about 275 military personnel, police trainers, civilian advisers and human rights officers to remain in East Timor until May 2006, along with a small staff for the U.N. representative. The mission currently has about 900 military, police and international civilian staff.

"The need to continue to support Timorese institution-building efforts remains critical, so as to protect the gains made until now," he said, warning that a pullout in May could affect the nation's security and stability.

But Reed Fendrick, a senior U.S. diplomat, made clear that Washington wants the peacekeeping mission wrapped up on schedule in May. He did not rule out a non-peacekeeping mission.

"There is no longer a threat to international peace and security requiring a peacekeeping mission, and relations between East Timor and Indonesia are improving," he said.

He said the United States would be open to considering a political mission for a limited period to focus on the country's most critical needs.

The United States pays about 25 percent of U.N. peacekeeping operations, so U.S. opposition to extending the current mission would likely mean an end to the military component.

Sukehiro Hasegawa, the U.N. special representative to East Timor, warned the council on Monday that if the U.N. military and police are withdrawn on schedule "the country may face insurmountable challenges in its path towards peace and stability."

Ramos Horta urged the council to increase the numbers Annan proposed for the scaled-down mission.

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