Subject: US Military Delivers Aid To Tense East Timor

Dow Jones Newswires September 15, 2000

US Military Delivers Aid To Tense East Timor

DILI, East Timor (AP)--In a show of military and humanitarian support for East Timor, U.S. Marines Friday delivered food aid and shelter materials across the devastated territory Friday.

About 2,000 marines and a similar number of sailors arrived in East Timorese waters Thursday on board three ships carrying the aid. The convoy was accompanied by a fourth ship, the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill.

Although U.S. officers said planning for the visit began several months ago, it coincided with a sharp escalation in violence on Timor island, which is divided in between Indonesia in the west and a temporary U.N. administration in the east.

Anti-independence militia gangs based in West Timor have been infiltrating East Timor and clashing with U.N. peacekeepers. Two U.N. soldiers and several paramilitaries have died in recent clashes.

Last week, thousands of militia thugs attacked U.N. aid workers in the West Timorese town of Atambua, killing three foreign staff.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned Indonesia and demanded that it disarm the gangs. But defiant Indonesian officials have blamed the international community for last week's slayings and have barred a Security Council delegation from investigating.

The United Nations maintains a peacekeeping force of about 9,000 men in East Timor. About 50 U.S. servicemen, mostly communications and logistics experts, are permanently based in the capital, Dili.

Marine Col. Mike Williams, who commands the U.S. military contingent in East Timor, said he was not worried by the security alert along the border.

"We look very closely at the intelligence situation, and we look at the force protection requirements," he said. "We've taken the appropriate force protection precautions so that from a security point of view we're comfortable with it."

Williams said 269 sailors and marines took part in various construction projects around Dili Friday.

With the Bunker Hill and the USS Tarawa anchored off Dili, the two other ships delivered food and shelter materials to the southern border region and the isolated enclave of Oecussi.

All four vessels are scheduled to leave Timorese waters Saturday.

The United States is the largest contributor of reconstruction aid to the territory, which was devastated by the militias after its people voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia a year ago.

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