Outlines Major Challenges Facing E. Timor
Associated Press February 9, 2000
U.S.: E. Timor Better, Problems Loom
By JIM ABRAMS
WASHINGTON (AP) - Peacekeeping operations in East Timor largely have been successful and hunger no longer is a daily danger for most, the State Department said Thursday, but residents seeking to build an independent state are starting with virtually nothing.
``The economy is at a near standstill; unemployment is perilously close to universal. Regrettably, but not surprisingly, crime and lawlessness are increasingly serious problems,'' Stanley Roth, assistant secretary of state for Far East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told a joint House-Senate hearing.
Roth said that since Australian-led U.N. troops entered the former Indonesian province last fall, militia violence effectively has ended and an estimated 135,000, roughly half of those who fled to Indonesian West Timor during the violence, have returned. He said some do not intend to return.
The militia rampage after the East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia damaged up to 80 percent of public and private property, he said.
Roth praised the Indonesian government for a recent report on atrocities in East Timor that identified 33 individuals for further investigation, but said the United States will continue to watch closely to see if Jakarta follows through on the inquiry.
Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the Australians should be commended for helping restore peace. But, he said, the real issue as East Timor tries to build a nation is ``what do we do now to make this work.''
He noted that only half the members of the 1,600 international police force were on the ground, and little of the $520 million in aid pledged at a conference in Tokyo in December has reached the region.
Roth said Congress provided $25 million in aid in last year's budget and was increasing from 30 to 45 the number of Americans on an international police force. He said this might be further increased and the State Department had allocated $8.5 million in peacekeeping operations funds for this purpose.
``We have to think of them, in a benevolent sense, as an international welfare case for a while,'' said Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
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