UN Military Chief Arrives In East Timor
Associated Press January 25, 2000
New UN Military Chief Arrives In East Timor
DILI, East Timor (AP)--The new commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force for East Timor arrived in the devastated territory Tuesday, saying that control of the border with Indonesia would be his greatest task.
Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos of the Philippines will take over responsibility for security in East Timor from the commander of the current Australian-led emergency force, Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove.
The transition to the blue berets will begin in earnest Feb. 1. The full peacekeeping force should be in place by Feb. 28.
The change will give the security operation in East Timor a clearly Asian face.
De los Santos said being an Asian might make him better placed to understand the concerns of the East Timorese.
International troops first arrived in East Timor on Sept. 20 after the territory was ravaged by pro-Indonesian militias. They went on a rampage of violence and destruction after an overwhelming number of East Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia in an Aug. 30 referendum.
Most militiamen fled to Indonesian-controlled West Timor when the peacekeepers were deployed.
But some have since launched incursions into East Timor to harass civilians.
De los Santos said the border must be "neutralized."
"We are concerned because it could become a flashpoint," he said after arriving a Dili airport by a U.N. helicopter. "If it is not controlled properly it could escalate. But I think it is manageable."
De los Santos flew to Dili from Kupang in West Timor where he held talks with Indonesian military commanders.
East Timor independence activists, human rights groups and some foreign governments accuse the Indonesian military of sponsoring the militias.
Several top generals are now being investigated for their part in the mayhem.
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