Australians due to leave East-Timor by January

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at
Sat Nov 20 09:13:50 MST 1999

Mid-January Target for U.N. Peace Force in East Timor

 (19/11/99) Reuters - by Anthony Goodman

 UNITED NATIONS — Mid-January is the best time for an Australian-led
peacekeeping force now in
 East Timor to hand off to a U.N. force, according to a report
circulated at the United Nations on
 Wednesday. The document was a periodic report, submitted by Australia,
on the activities of the
 international force hurriedly deployed to East Timor in September.

 That force, called INTERFET (International Force, East Timor), was
authorized by the U.N. Security
 Council to restore order after pro-Jakarta militias went on a rampage
of murder and destruction
 following an August 30 vote in favor of independence from Indonesia.

 The council voted on October 25 to replace it with the U.N.
Transitional Administration in East Timor
 (UNTAET), comprised of nearly 11,000 troops and police along with
thousands of civilian officials, to
 help lead the former Portuguese colony to independence in two to three
years. The council did not set
 a firm date for UNTAET’s deployment.

 "With the continued success of INTERFET, conditions are moving toward
the point where the
 transition to a peacekeeping operation under UNTAET can take place,"
the report said.

 "Australia ... and the United Nations department of peacekeeping
operations have agreed that the
 preferred transition period is mid-January," it said.

 It said the Australian commander of INTERFET, Major-General Peter
Cosgrove, "advises that, on the
 basis of current and anticipated security conditions, this date is

 Urging accelerated planning to assure a timely transition, it said
INTERFET would welcome the early
 deployment of the advance headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping
operation and early discussions
 between UNTAET and INTERFET on the conditions and requirements of the

 The early appointment of the senior leadership of UNTAET, including its
force commander, would also
 facilitate an early transition and assist U.N. efforts to secure firm
commitments of forces from
 contributing countries, the report said.

 The Brazilian diplomat who will head the overall UNTAET operation for
at least six months,
 Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello, arrived in Dili, the
capital of East Timor, on Tuesday.

 Philippines Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon said in Manila on
Wednesday his country had been
 asked to nominate three Filipino candidates for the post of commander
of UNTAET’s peacekeeping
 force. He said at least one other country had been asked by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to
 nominate candidates for the post.

 The Australian report said a transition early next year "roughly
accords with the resources available"
 from a trust fund that pays the costs of INTERFET contingents not
funded by their own governments.

 "Delay beyond this period would necessitate additional trust fund
contributions. This further
 underscores the importance of an early transition," the report said.

 Unlike INTERFET, the costs of UNTAET will be apportioned among all U.N.
members and not covered
 primarily by the troop-contributing countries.

 The Australian report said INTERFET had made "significant progress in
restoring peace and security
 throughout East Timor. INTERFET had "successfully marginalized the
militias and their capacity to
 threaten the safety of the East Timorese people," it added, a reference
to the pro-Indonesian groups
 largely responsible for the violence.

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