Subject: CNN: US rejects peacekeepers
Date: Fri, 03 Sep 1999 10:50:04 +0100
From: Bruno Kahn <kahn@math.jussieu.fr> Organization: CNRS

U.S. rejects call for U.N. to send peacekeepers to East Timor

September 3, 1999 Web posted at: 11:04 a.m. HK (0304 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS -- Rejecting growing calls for the United Nations to send peacekeepers to end the bloodshed in East Timor, the United States said it wants Indonesia to live up to its responsibility to provide security throughout the territory.

Deputy U.S. ambassador Peter Burleigh ruled out a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the near term.

"It's not a practical suggestion at this point in time," he told said on Thursday. "We are counting on the Indonesian authorities ... to create a situation of peace and security throughout East Timor regardless of the result (of Monday's ballot)."

Western diplomats stress that it's not practical to send U.N. peacekeepers because the United Nations does not have a standby military force ready to deploy at a moments notice. As Kosovo showed, it took weeks even to start deploying a U.N. international police force, and it is still not at full strength.

But with the killing of at least four U.N. local staff members and three civilians since Monday's vote, pressure is mounting in some quarters for U.N. action to avoid lawlessness and prevent civil war.

The U.N. Security Council would have to authorize a U.N. peacekeeping force, and as Burleigh's comments clearly indicate, there would be no council agreement if a vote were held today.

Some members are prepared to consider deploying peacekeepers, but diplomats said that under the May 5 agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, which authorized the United Nations to organize the August 30 ballot, Indonesia is responsible for all security until its parliament meets to implement the results of the vote.

That meeting is expected in November -- and Washington wants Indonesia to keep its pledge to maintain security in East Timor until that time.

Portugal, which was East Timor's last colonial ruler, is pressing for immediate action to beef up security, possibly by increasing the number of unarmed U.N. police and military liaison officers.

Last week, the Security Council raised the number of military liaison officers from 50 to 300 and the number of international police from 280 to 460. But the new contingents are just starting to arrive -- and they are unarmed.

"We want a reinforcement of security," said Portugal's U.N. Ambassador Antonio Monteiro. "We want to do it in cooperation with Indonesia if Indonesia is not capable of keeping its own responsibilities and needs help from the international community."

For the first time Thursday, Indonesia indicated it might allow the deployment of a multinational force.

"The possibility is not closed for the government to allow the United Nations to deploy a U.N. peacekeeping force in East Timor," said State Secretary Muladi, President B.J. Habibie's top aide.

Canada's U.N. Ambassador Robert Fowler said the United States is right in stressing Indonesia's obligations to provide security under the May 5 agreement.

"But we just have to be ready for anything," he said. "Obviously, we believe strongly that we must be considering all possible contingencies."

The Security Council will probably meet immediately after the announcement of the results of the vote, and Fowler said it will have to "take stock of what its options are."

With a 98.6 percent turnout, there is widespread expectation that voters will reject wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia, which will put the 800,000 East Timorese on the road to independence.

Report: Evacuation plans

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Post reported Friday that the Indonesian military had prepared a contingency plan to evacuate up to a quarter of a million people from the bloodied territory.

The daily newspaper quoted East Timor military commander Colonel Muhammad Noer Muis as saying an extra brigade of troops would be required to evacuate up to 250,000 people, both locals and foreigners, from East Timor.

But Muis said he hoped the plan would not have to be put into effect.

"We don't want the plan to materialize, but if it happens , we have a mission to protect the evacuees until they reach safety," he said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Friday voiced concern for the safety of Australians in East Timor amid the escalating violence, but he said an evacuation was not yet warranted.

"I do not believe the situation has reached that point," Howard told Australian radio. "But we are ready and we will of course execute any evacuation plan if that becomes necessary.

"We remain concerned but not alarmed about the safety of Australians," Howard said.

There are 200 to 300 Australians in East Timor. Australian forces are on stand-by to evacuate Australian nationals.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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