Subject: AFP: Jordanian peacekeepers defend reputation

Agence France Presse February 7, 2000, Monday

Jordanian peacekeepers head to ETimor confident of "spotless" reputation

AMMAN, Feb 7

Jordanian peacekeepers were heading Monday to the troubled territory of East Timor armed with a "spotless" reputation earned in other hot spots like the former Yugoslavia, the army and diplomats said.

"We previously sent 15,000 soldiers in four battalions to serve in the former Yugoslavia and their performance was highly appreciated by the United Nations and the people of the region," an army spokesman told AFP.

"We had a spotless reputation and good relations with all the parties over there and this high credibility encouraged the United Nations to ask Jordan to serve in East Timor," he said.

The officer, who declined to be named, dismissed Christian East Timorese concern that the 707 peacekeepers from Jordan, a mostly Muslim country, may not be objective.

"There is a good number of Christians among the peacekeepers being sent to East Timor. Our soldiers are not biased and they are very disciplined. This was proven in the former Yugoslavia," the spokesman said.

Residents of the East Timor enclave of Oecussi, where Jordanian troops will replace Australian peacekeepers, have expressed concern over the dispatch of soldiers from Jordan, which maintains good ties with the Indonesian army.

Australia's ambassador to Jordan, Ian William Russel, said East Timorese concern was "unjustified".

"I have heard that comment but it is not justified and it is not shared by the United Nations or by the Australian government," Russel said in a statement published Monday by the English-language Jordan Times.

"We think that the Jordanian forces will do an excellent job. Jordanians have immense experience, they are very well trained and are highly capable," he said.

On Sunday King Abdullah II attended a farewell ceremony for Jordanian peacekeepers who will be leaving for East Timor this week in three batches starting late Monday.

The peacekeepers will be part of an 8,500-strong UN force, including troops from Brazil, Portugal and Kenya.

Jordan has in the past contributed troops to several international peacekeeping forces, notably in the former Yugoslavia and in Kosovo.

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