Subject: Jordanian Peacekeepers Depart East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Jordanian Peacekeepers Depart East Timor

DILI, East Timor, Jan. 11 (AP) -- Jordanian troops handed over their peacekeeping duties in East Timor to a Korean battalion Friday, further reducing the U.N. force in the territory.

"You have brought peace and stability to Oecussi and you have given a courageous people the opportunity to build a great nation in East Timor," Lt. General Phattiyakul, the force commander, told the departing soldiers.

The 674 Jordanians served in the isolated enclave of Oecussi, which is surrounded by Indonesian-held West Timor and only reachable by helicopter and ferry.

As fellow Muslims, the Jordanian troops were able to forge a close relationship with Indonesian officers based close to the border. They also carried out humanitarian projects, including the opening of a hospital and assisting in road repairs.

The U.N. plans to reduce its force in East Timor from the current 8,000 to about 5,000 over the next six months, in line with improved security conditions.

East Timor, which voted for independence from Indonesia in September 1999, is scheduled to become fully independent in May 2002.

An international force first arrived shortly after the referendum, after Indonesian troops and their East Timorese militia laid waste to the country. Oecussi, which couldn't initially be reached by the peacekeepers, was particularly badly affected.

Peacekeepers have been responsible for securing the border with Indonesia, a staging area for incursions by pro-Jakarta militiamen. Two peacekeepers were killed in skirmishes with the paramilitaries early on in the deployment.

As U.N. troops withdraw, responsibility for security will gradually be transferred to East Timor's nascent defense force, which is expected to be fully operation by 2004.

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