Subject: Interfet triumph: now the peace enforcers are disturbing the peace

Sydney Morning Herald December 8, 1999

Interfet triumph: now the peace enforcers are disturbing the peace

By MARK DODD,Herald Correspondent in Dili

Eleven weeks after he led international troops into East Timor to restore order after a campaign of destruction by the Indonesian army and its militia allies, Major-General Peter Cosgrove believes his mission is virtually complete. One encouraging sign, he says, is that the people of Dili are confident enough of their security to complain about the noise of Interfet armoured personnel carriers sent in to protect them.

''Just short of 80 days in, I think we can probably say we've accomplished the mission we were sent in to perform,'' General Cosgrove, the Australian commander of the 11,000-strong international force, told the Herald in an interview.

''East Timor is now a safe place for the people wherever they want to live. They can return to where they used to live and rebuild their homes and their lives.

''Certainly, peace and security is available wherever they want to live. It doesn't mean East Timor is not a difficult place to live, because there's still widespread destruction that hasn't been put right.''

General Cosgrove acknowledged there had been ''misunderstandings'' with East Timor's biggest political coalition, the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), but said Interfet had behaved with ''great sensitivity''.

He said he could understand why the Timorese were so eager to take charge of their own affairs after 24 years of Indonesian rule.

''I look at the fact that a whole bunch of people have been struggling for decades who now see the shining light of freedom at the end of the tunnel and who feel they should have a role immediately in the administration of this emerging nation,'' he said.

He said independence leader Jose ''Xanana'' Gusmao's suggestion that the UN scale down its military presence in Dili was a welcome indication that people were confident security had been re-established.

''I think it's a great sign people are now saying: 'Could you tell those armoured personnel carriers to drive more quietly?' Or: 'Is there any need for them to go down my street at four in the morning?','' General Cosgrove said.

''But we must not ever give ground back or be even seen to give ground back. We must always ensure that violent adversaries are always deterred from chancing their arm.''

In the meantime, he appealed to the CNRT to be patient.

Peter Cole-Adams reports: In Canberra, the Opposition Leader, Mr Beazley, told a meeting of the Labor caucus that Australia had to rebuild its relationship with Indonesia.

''East Timor cannot be the sole focus of our foreign policy,'' a spokesman quoted him as saying. ''The imploding of Indonesia would not be helpful to any of us - Australia or the South-East Asian countries that border it.''

Reporting on his visit to East Timor last week, Mr Beazley said Australia could not ignore what was happening in West Timor or the need for some form of accountability for the crimes that had happened in East Timor, but nor could it ignore Indonesia's capacity to make life hard for Australia.


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