Subject: US Defense Official: E Timor's Success Crucial To Stability

Associated Press March 21, 2000

US Official: E Timor's Success Crucial To Stability

DILI, East Timor (AP)--The success of East Timor's struggle to become an independent country is crucial in promoting stability throughout neighboring Indonesia, a visiting senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

"This is an operation which has the attention of our senior leadership in Washington," said James Schear, the Department of Defense's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs.

He said guiding East Timor from a U.N.-administered territory to independence in a few years time was crucial, calling it "a necessary condition for our efforts to promote longer-term stability in Indonesia and a democratic transition there."

East Timor broke away from Indonesia last year after the majority of its population voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored ballot. Hundreds of people were killed and most of the territory's infrastructure was destroyed in a violent rampage by pro-Jakarta militias that followed the announcement.

Schear, who was on a brief 24-hour visit to the capital Dili, refused to confirm rumors circulating in East Timor that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright may visit the half-island territory soon.

There are about 50 U.S. military personnel in East Timor, including 25 navy engineers working on humanitarian construction projects. There are no U.S. soldiers taking part in the peacekeeping activities.

The U.S. government has spent $61 million so far on its operations in East Timor.

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