Subject: U.S. Warship USS O'Brien Brings Aid To East Timor

Associated Press October 28, 2000

U.S. Ship Brings Aid To East Timor


DILI, East Timor (AP) - A U.S. warship arrived in East Timor on a humanitarian mission Saturday as an Indonesian general invited foreign aid workers to return to the violence-wracked western half of the island.

The 25 marines and 200 sailors on board the USS O'Brien will spend two days in the devastated East Timorese capital Dili repairing a school and hosting boy scouts, said Cmdr. Stephen Beckvonpeccoz.

The humanitarian mission is the U.S. Navy's fifth to the territory since its people overwhelmingly voted in a U.N.-supervised ballot to break free from Indonesian rule 13 months ago.

Last month, four warships, including guided missile carrier USS Bunker Hill and amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa, conducted operations in East Timor waters for three days.

The presence of that contingent fueled speculation that Washington was warning Jakarta to clamp down on anti-independence militiamen. A week before the warships arrived, militia gangs had killed three U.N. refugee workers in the West Timor town of Atambua.

The militias, which are backed by some sections of the Indonesian military, fled across the border into West Timor after international troops stopped their rampage of violence in the east against the independence referendum. Since then, they have used West Timor, which remains an Indonesian province, as a springboard for attacks into the east.

On Saturday, West Timor's military commander Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri said he had invited international relief organizations to return to the province.

Aid workers helping the estimated 130,000 East Timorese refugees in the area fled the territory after the Atambua slayings. They have demanded security guarantees before continuing their work.

``The situation there is even safer than before the Atambua incident,'' he was quoted as saying by Indonesia's online news service

Beckvonpeccoz said security levels would remain normal during O'Brien's visit to East Timor.

``It's always prudent to be concerned about threats in the area so we will have some marines to provide security for people at the sites, but they will not be patrolling the city,'' said Beckvonpeccoz. ``It's not like the USS Tarawa (visit) with 2,000 marines. This is just one destroyer.''

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