September 1999: Threats directed at East Timor force: UN
presidential adviser says australian troops might be singled
out for militia attacks
and other troops arriving in East Timor in the next few days
will be hard pressed to save refugees, neutralise murderous
militia and avoid clashing with unfriendly Indonesian troops,
diplomats and analysts believe.
anti-Australian feeling mounted in the Indonesian capital
last night, senior officials were openly warning of threats
to members of the international force. Dewi Fortuna Anwar,
an adviser to President B.J. Habibie, said Australian troops
might be singled out for militia attacks, since Australia
was seen as having sided with pro-independence Timorese. Another
presidential adviser said he had heard some generals saying
they would love to see Australian troops facing guerrilla
first of up to 8,000 soldiers may arrive as early as tomorrow,
but it remains unclear when or how they will be able to bring
food and water to some 200,000 refugees holed up in the mountains,
surrounded by hostile militia and Indonesian military.
is also unclear whether the countries leading the peacekeeping
force have formulated a strategy to disarm the pro-Indonesian
militia, or kill them if they act on their threat to attack
when it comes to dealing with some 20,000 Indonesian soldiers
and police, who have openly collaborated with the militia
and are now supposed to co-operate with foreign troops as
liaison officers and advisers, diplomats are apprehensive.
Howard, Australian prime minister, yesterday said the forces
would be given "adequate legal authority" to defend themselves
and take "whatever action is necessary to implement their
Downer, Australia's foreign minister, said: "We are under
no illusions - this is a dangerous mission."
all comes down to the rules of engagement," said a diplomat
in Jakarta, referring to negotiations at the UN in New York
on the code of conduct for the foreign troops. "Can they shoot?
What is the role of the Indonesia military?
it doesn't work you get a sort of Vietnam syndrome, pumping
in more and more troops. But I'm not at all sure many countries
are prepared to do this. East Timor is just a little island."
analysts doubted whether much aid would reach refugees in
the mountains any time soon. "If you drop food close to the
refugees you expose their location to the militia. If you
drop too far away they can't get it," a diplomat said.
the international force can only operate within East Timor,
they could well face daily raids by pro-Indonesian militia
hiding in West Timor, which is part of Indonesia.
UN official staying in Dili, the East Timor capital, said
he had seen trucks of militia leaving the city, but Allen
Nairn, a freelance US journalist under arrest in the capital,
told the FT by cellular phone that hundreds of militia members,
armed and uniformed, were roaming around Dili's military headquarters
where he was being held.
Straits Times of Singapore yesterday cited military sources
as saying General Wiranto, the military commander, might resign
in October to run for president.
military spokesman denied the report and a self-described
friend of the general said he had set his sights on the vice-presidency
only, aware that neither he nor the military were strong enough
to stand in the political firing line.
does want to be president eventually, but first as number
two and then as number one," the friend said.
urges military exercises
US should carry out military exercises with New Zealand to
prepare for operations in East Timor, President Bill Clinton
said yesterday, writes Stephen Fidler in Christchurch. He
said he hoped an international force would be able to enter
East Timor "in a couple of days", as soon as a United Nations
resolution passed, which he believed would happen today.
a meeting in Christchurch with Jenny Shipley, New Zealand's
prime minister, Mr Clinton said it was important that military
exercises were carried out with Australia and the other countries
participating in the international force being readied for
exercises between the US and New Zealand were effectively
barred when the US suspended its security obligations to New
Zealand in 1986 after a Labour government barred nuclear armed
and nuclear powered warships from ports in the country.
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