Subject: Australia-led Force Leaves E.Timor in U.N. Hands

23 Feb 00 11:57 East Timor: Interfet Commander Departs with 'Best Medal' - People at Peace

Dili, Feb. 23 (Lusa) - Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove formally handed over Interfet’s peacekeeping mission in East Timor to the United Nations Wednesday, saying the "best medal" was seeing his soldiers hailed by a people at peace. After an emotional ceremony in Dili, Maj. Gen. Cosgrove departed for home aboard Australian navy vessel Jarvis Bay, with the territory’s security entrusted to the UN transitional administration (UNTAET), under the command of Gen. Jaime de los Santos of the Philippines. At the ceremony, which drew hundreds of people, independence leader Xanana Gusmao praised Cosgrove and his Australian-led International Force for East Timor (Interfet) as "friends", who had restored order after a wave of anti-independence militia violence. UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello underlined "the comradeship, friendship and professionalism" of Interfet troops, who began arriving in Dili Sept. 20. In seven weeks, the predominantly Australian contingent, which grew to a 9,000-strong force from 22 countries, brought peace to the half-island with minimal use of firepower and casualties. During its five-month mission, the UN-mandated Interfet suffered two deaths through illness and a road accident, while killing six militiamen and an Indonesian policeman in scattered incidents. Much of the Interfet contingent will remain in East Timor to integrate the new UN peacekeeping force under the command of Gen. de los Santos. A planned parade by Timor’s pro-independence Falantil guerrillas in honor of Gen. Cosgrove and the formal end of the Interfet mission did not take place, for unexplained reasons.


The Independent 22 February 2000

Peacekeepers claim success as they prepare to leave East Timor

by Heather Paterson, AP

An Australian­led multinational force made final preparations on Tuesday to pull out of East Timor and end what its commander declared was a successful peacekeeping operation.

The 19­nation Interfet force will leave Wednesday. When it was deployed last September, the tiny territory was in chaos. Buildings were on fire and gunshots from militia gangs and maverick Indonesian troops echoed across the devastated capital, Dili.

Five months later, U.N. administrators are in control. Hundreds of thousands of East Timorese, who were forced to flee the bloody mayhem, are trying to rebuild their shattered lives and hope their homeland will be independent within a few years.

"This is one of the most complex, challenging and most successful military operations we have ever run," Interfet commander, Australian army Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, said in a farewell speech to his troops who are being replaced by a U.N. force in blue berets.

At the height of the operation, 11,000 personnel were under Cosgrove's command. Two soldiers died, one in a car accident and another from illness.

Despite the massive destruction before Interfet's arrival, skirmishes with militias and Indonesian troops were few. The peacekeepers killed one Indonesian police officer and six militia men.

Interfet troops supervised the largely peaceful withdrawal of Indonesian soldiers and had the half­island territory under its control within the first seven weeks.

Indonesia's military is now accused of helping anti­independence militia gangs launch the wave of violence after East Timor's people overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.­supervised ballot.

Those militia are still active in Indonesian­controlled West Timor, where members stoned a U.N. team on Tuesday and disrupted the return of 1,000 refugees back to East Timor. No one was injured but only 179 people made it across the border, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York.

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