Subject: ETimes: West Timor slayings highlight UN's peace role

MILLENNIUM SUMMIT West Timor slayings highlight UN's peace role

By RAHUL SINGH with NANDAN DESAI and ROBERT E. SULLIVAN © Earth Times News Service September 7, 2000

The slaying of three UN workers in faraway West Timor has given a fresh urgency to Secretary General Kofi Annan’s efforts in New York to secure a stronger peacekeeping role for the world body at the ongoing UN Summit. The attack, which occurred in Atambua in Indonesian-controlled West Timor just hours before the historic UN meeting began on Wednesday, targeted workers of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Three people were killed when men armed with automatic weapons stormed and ransacked the agency’s offices, then began a house-to-house search for UN workers.

The incident is seen as the latest attempt by forces opposed to independence in East Timor to stop the return of refugees to the province. "Because of the killing of one of the people seeking independence,” said Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid in an exclusive interview, “His followers ransacked the office of the UNHCR and my units in the field will take actions to find the culprits." Ironically, the UN Secretary General sent a detailed report to world leaders just one month ago outlining steps that need to be taken to strengthen the organization’s ability to promote peace in situations such as the one in East Timor. “This tragedy underlines once again the dangers faced by unarmed humanitarian workers serving the United Nations in conflict or post-conflict situations,” Annan told his audience of presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens at the opening of the 55th General Assembly.

Speaking to the Earth Times, Jose Ramos Horta, vice president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, described today’s attack as an “outrage” but added that the UN had been warned about such a possibility. He pinned responsibility for the killings on certain “hardliners” in the Indonesian military, saying he still has “words of respect” for the country’s president, K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid.

However, Ramos Horta said today’s incident should not overshadow the UN’s crucial role in allowing democracy to take root in East Timor. “If we follow the traditional Security Council-mandated interventions, East Timor would still be today occupied, brutalized,” he said. “So maybe the intervention in East Timor will serve as an example for the Security Council, for the UN to restructure itself, to intervene more forcefully.”

US President Bill Clinton echoed this sentiment in his remarks at the General Assembly. “In East Timor, had the UN not engaged, the people would have lost the chance to control their future,” he said. “Yet the UN did not have the tools to prevent abuses that followed the vote for independence.” Clinton called on his peers to give the UN the resources the world body needs to meet the peacekeeping goals they set for it. “We need better machinery to ensure UN peacekeepers can be rapidly deployed, with the right training and equipment, the ability to project credible force, and missions well defined by a well functioning headquarters.”

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