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Clinton Says U.S. Would Aid Aussie Peacekeepers in Timor

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 1999 – The United States is prepared to support any Australian effort to provide security in East Timor, President Clinton said Sept. 9.

Clinton said during a South Lawn news conference before departing for New Zealand that he has ordered the U.S. military to cease all military-to-military contacts with Indonesia.

"The Indonesian government and military are responsible for the safety of the East Timorese and of the U.N. mission there," Clinton said. "If Indonesia does not end the violence, it must invite -- it must invite -- the international community to assist in restoring security."

Australia has pledged to head such a peacekeeping force and, in fact, evacuated hundreds of U.N. workers from the provincial capital of Dili. A skeleton staff remains at the U.N. compound in the city.

The president said it is early to specify the U.S. assistance to any peacekeeping effort. During a Pentagon news briefing, however, DoD spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said, "We don't envision sending any ground troops."

Quigley said the Australians have asked whether the U.S. military could support "any sort of a force they might put together in logistics, communications, intelligence and strategic lift." Both Clinton and Quigley said officials would consult with Congress before making any decision.

Two soldiers and one Marine serving with the U.N. mission in Dili are the only assigned U.S. military personnel in East Timor, Quigley said. The cruiser USS Mobile Bay and destroyer USS O'Brien are coincidentally in the area participating in Crocodile '99, a U.S.-Australian combined exercise, he said. The ammunition ship USNS Kilauea, also assigned to the exercise, is en route from Guam.

Quigley said the United States wants Indonesia to end the violence on East Timor. The Indonesian government and military have the full responsibility and, presumably, the ability to control the situation, he said, "and I think that's what the international community expects it to do."

Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, met with Gen. Wiranto, the Indonesian defense chief, and delivered officially the message that U.S.-Indonesian military-to-military are suspended in light of current events.

"There will be no planning for any future exercise activity with the Indonesians. There will be no exchange of liaison officers," Quigley said. Military-to-military contacts can be helpful in appropriate circumstances -- and the situation developing in Indonesia isn't one, he said.

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