Subject: SMH: Falintil risks Jakarta's wrath as it joins peacekeepers

Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Falintil risks Jakarta's wrath as it joins peacekeepers

Dili: East Timor's former guerilla force, Falintil, will send soldiers to the western border to help Australian and New Zealand peacekeepers with intelligence gathering on pro-Indonesian militias, its commander-in-chief confirmed yesterday.

Taur Matan Ruak, who took over the leadership of Falintil from Mr Xanana Gusmao on Sunday, said Falintil units were prepared to take up positions in villages in areas threatened by recent militia incursions.

Diplomats told the Herald that Falintil commanders had been exerting strong pressure on the UN to be part of East Timor's security apparatus, not a pleasing prospect for Jakarta, whose generals have already objected to New Zealand and Australian peacekeepers based at the border.

Commander Ruak said at least 20 armed fighters would shortly be deployed in south-west Suai to help UN peacekeepers in logistical support and intelligence gathering on pro-Indonesian militias and their shadowy backers, some of whom are believed to be rogue elements of the military.

"We have told the United Nations we are ready and willing to participate in whatever operations they feel they need us to assist," he said.

The militia threat should not be underestimated and political pressure needed to be applied on those providing the militias with a support base.

"I'm concerned [at the threat] although I'm confident we'll be able to neutralise this. All that is needed is for the UN to start acting effectively and promptly to prevent the militias from organising and establishing, because if this happens it will be more difficult for us to control."

The Falintil chief said while his forces were keen to participate in border operations it was probably more politically prudent for them to assist in the protection of villages away from the sensitive border area " so as not to aggravate relations with Indonesia".

Mark Dodd

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