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U.S. Plans to Support U.N. Force in East Timor

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 1999 – The U.S. military will provide logistical and other support to an Australian-led international peacekeeping force in East Timor, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said Sept. 12.

A U.S. military team is in Australia helping with the planning process, Cohen said Sept. 12 while en route to Russia. The peacekeepers will be mainly Australian troops and forces from other nations in the region.

"We are not planning at this point on putting combat troops on the ground in terms of a peacekeeping force," the secretary said. "At this point, our planning is for support activities. U.S. ships and planes will be involved in the mission, as they transport other national forces and supplies." He said planning to date has included intelligence, communications, logistics and general support activities.

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie over the weekend endorsed and invited an international peacekeeping force to help bring order and stability to the island of East Timor. Cohen said Indonesian leaders have harshly criticized the actions of military elements alleged to be involved in the violence sweeping the island. He said Habibie and other Indonesian leaders understand their country's economic future and position in the world community are at stake.

"I think they will do everything in their power to make sure that those [military] elements that would be part of any peacekeeping mission would be those committed to working properly and constructively with a peacekeeping force," Cohen said.

The current trouble in East Timor started after a large majority of East Timorese voted for independence Aug. 30. Local anti- independence militia, trained and armed by garrisoned Indonesian occupation forces, went on a rampage against their political opponents. By this weekend, the death toll was over 8,000, and more than 200,000 residents had fled their homes.

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