|Subject: KY: Former guerrillas to patrol
with peacekeepers in E. Timor
Former guerrillas to patrol with peacekeepers in E. Timor
DILI, East Timor, Sept. 5 (Kyodo) -- East Timor's former guerrilla fighters, set to form the nucleus of its new army after independence, have been given a green light to jointly patrol with U.N. peacekeepers to curb the activities of anti-independence militias, the U.N. peacekeeping force (PKF) said Tuesday.
PKF spokesman Lt. Col. Brynjar Nymo told a press conference that the agreement to expand the Falintil fighters' participation in the peacekeeping operation after months of being sidelined came in meetings over the weekend between top U.N. officials and preeminent East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao.
Nymo said dozens of Falintil ''liaison officers'' will be integrated into PKF headquarters in Dili, the headquarters of the three military sectors -- West, Central and East -- and at the battalion level as well, where they will assist with operational planning.
They will also act as guides and interpreters while patrolling with U.N. peacekeepers, particularly in remote rural areas.
However, Nymo said that while the liaison officers will be armed, the 8, 000-strong PKF will not use them ''as a fighting force.''
''It is solely their expertise and local knowledge that we're after, not their fighting capabilities,'' he said.
The move follows strong pressure on the U.N. administration from the East Timorese leadership to make use of the 1,500-strong Falintil before the former guerrillas' dissatisfaction with their current marginalization and poor living conditions boils over.
The United Nations had previously said it was precluded by its mandate from entering into agreements conferring legal status on Falintil because the mandate makes no mention of Falintil and does not cover setting up a new army.
But in a landmark decision in May, the U.N. conferred de facto legal status on Falintil by agreeing that its members should work alongside U.N. peacekeepers as liaison officers.
There are now 10 Falintil liaison officers, three attached to each military sector and one to Dili headquarters. They advise the U.N. on security matters and assist the U.N. mission with intelligence, including helping identify militia infiltrators sent from Indonesia-ruled West Timor to disrupt East Timor's development process.
Nymo said Falintil has been asked to provide an additional 57 liaison officers, or three additional ones for the PKF headquarters and 18 for each of the three sectors.
The Falintil enjoy popular respect for their 24-year struggle against vastly larger Indonesian forces in the rugged terrain where the militias are now hiding.
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