Subject: 1,000 US Marines Deliver Humanitarian Assistance To E Timor

Associated Press October 30, 2001

US Marines Deliver Humanitarian Assistance To E Timor

DILI, East Timor (AP)--About 1,000 U.S. marines were deployed across East Timor Tuesday to provide medical assistance and other aid as part of a three-day visit to the new nation, which is still struggling to recover from years of violence.

The troops arrived in East Timor Monday from bases in Sasebo and Okinawa, Japan, said Maj. Paul Van Breeman, the U.S. military spokesman in East Timor.

They will remain until Wednesday, providing medical and dental assistance as well as helping to construct public buildings. They will also deliver sports equipment to remote communities.

The troops - who arrived aboard the amphibious ships USS Essex, USS Germantown and USS Ft. McHenry - will spend their time in the capital, Dili, the border town of Suai and the isolated enclave of Oecussi.

The visit is the latest in a series of goodwill trips intended to demonstrate U.S. support for the independence of the fledgeling nation.

Following East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999, much of the country was destroyed by rampaging Indonesian troops and their East Timorese militias. The territory is currently under the administration of the United Nations until full independence next May.

At least 26 U.S. Navy vessels have visited East Timor since 1999. Last month, a Navy amphibious task force carrying around 4,000 sailors and Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit spent three days in East Timor, providing humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, 3,233 refugees - who had been sheltering in Indonesian West Timor since fleeing East Timor in 1999 with about 300,000 others - returned home this month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday. Around 50,000 others still remain.

The number of returnees was the highest since March, 2000. The agency said the influx may be due to growing confidence among the refugees about the situation in East Timor.

Some of the refugees supported Indonesia's bid to retain control over East Timor in the 1999 ballot. They have expressed fears about possible reprisals if they return home.


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