|Subject: US senator calls for armed UN peacekeepers
in East Timor
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 03:28:36 EDT
US senator calls for armed UN peacekeepers in East Timor
MALIANA, East Timor, Aug 21 (AFP) - A US senator called here Saturday for armed UN peacekeepers to be sent to East Timor to cap violence in the run-up and during the August 30 self-determination vote.
"I can assure you that we will be asking our government and the United Nations to provide some peace keeping forces here," Democrat Tom Harkin told a crowd of refugees in a church here.
Harkin, with two other senators, was speaking during a brief helicopter visit to hundreds of refugees camped in a church compound, driven from their homes by pro-Indonesian militia violence.
On his return to the East Timorese capital of Dili, Harkin told AFP he was going to make his request directly to President Bill Clinton.
"I'm going to recommend it to President Clinton. I'm going to do that before the weekend's out," he said.
"I just know that they need some forces down here with blue helmets that are armed because the situation could get out of hand, because one of the UN officials told me this could be a bloodbath."
Asked how long he thought any such peace keeping force should stay, Harkin replied: "From now, right through the election and afterwards."
Under an agreement reached between Jakarta and Lisbon in May, Indonesian police are responsible for security in the runup and during the vote in which East Timorese will accept or reject an Indonesian autonomy offer.
The UN currently has only unarmed police in an advisory role, as well as military observers.
On Friday Harkin and Democratic senator Jack Reed warned that Indonesia's ties with the United States could be harmed if its military fails to maintain security during the landmark vote.
"This is a test case for the Indonesian authorities, particularly the military, whether or not they can conduct a safe and fair election," Reed said on his arrival.
"It is a test of whether we will continue to support their efforts, both in terms of financial support to Indonesia and also in increasing ties to their military."
Reed, Harkin and Jack McGovern, another Democrat, arrived on a US Air Force jet for a visit that will end later Saturday.