|Subject: RT: UN Sets up shop in Australia
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:23:13 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
U.N. sets up shop in Australia for E.Timor ballot 03:50 a.m. Jun 07, 1999 Eastern By Paul Tait
SYDNEY, June 7 (Reuters) - The United Nations has set up a staging post and supply centre in the remote Australian city of Darwin ahead of its complicated operation to oversee an autonomy ballot in the troubled territory of East Timor.
Three U.N. procurement officers were to arrive later on Monday to assemble the material needed to conduct and monitor the August 8 vote to decide whether East Timor stays with Indonesia or breaks away 24 years after it was invaded.
As the U.N. operation -- its first on Australian soil -- moved into top gear on Monday, Indonesians began their first democratic election in more than a generation.
Australian government aid agency AusAID said all supplies and personnel for East Timor would go through Darwin, where the U.N would also train civilian police monitors and volunteers.
``I would say it would be anything up to 500 people will be coming through here,'' said AusAID official Ralph Kennedy.
Kennedy said the procurement officers would look for local and Southeast Asian suppliers of everything from mobile phones to portable toilets for the U.N. Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).
``Beds, mosquito nets, radios, stationery, faxes, photocopiers and plumbing -- we need it,'' he said.
Big ticket items include computers and about 300 four-wheel drive vehicles.
Weaponry was not on the shopping list, Kennedy said.
``At the moment they're not taking sidearms. The whole force is unarmed,'' he told Reuters by telephone.
Violence between pro-Jakarta militias and independence supporters has escalated since Indonesia in January abruptly reversed 23 years of opposition and said it could countenance independence for East Timor if an offer of autonomy was rejected.
``This kind of U.N. operation is unprecedented in Australia,'' U.N. spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said.
Training of volunteers and civilian police will be conducted at an air force base on the tropical city's outskirts.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked a General Assembly budgetary committee to approve US$45.7 million for some 600 international UNAMET staff.
The U.N. staff will include 100 U.N. professional officers, 141 field officers and 400 regular U.N. volunteers. Another 4,000 East Timorese staff will be hired.
Annan has estimated the East Timor operation could cost more than US$53 million with the deployment of up to 300 civilian police, 25 of them from Australia.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year. About 200,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died in a military crackdown and famine.