|Subject: AAP: E Timor needs peacekeeping force, says
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 09:20:13 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
E Timor needs peacekeeping force, says activist By Stephen Spencer, Diplomatic Correspondent
CANBERRA, March 15 AAP - A leading East Timorese independence figure today attacked Australia's refusal to send peacekeeping troops to the province and accused Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of being out of touch. Mr Downer has confirmed Australian officials will be sent to East Timor, probably at the end of next month, to join UN personnel assisting with the historic vote on independence from Indonesia.
Mr Downer has rejected any military contribution, arguing that would only be necessary if peace negotiations broke down, making the situation too dangerous for Australian soldiers.
But Joao Carrascalao, president of the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) and a participant in the UN negotiations between Indonesia and Portugal on the fate of the former Portuguese colony, said Mr Downer's stance was contradictory. "On the one hand Mr Downer says he is happy to send administrative and technical personnel to East Timor, on the other he says he would not like to put the lives of Australian soldiers at risk by putting them in the same situation as peacekeepers!" Mr Carrascalao said in a statement.
"There is no question that a peacekeeping force is needed. Right now, today, the Indonesian army and the militias it has armed and controls are combining to terrorise, kill and loot.
Mr Carrascalao praised Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton for his support for a peacekeeping force, with Mr Brereton today renewing his attack on Mr Downer.
"Well I certainly don't welcome the indication that there's no peace to keep, therefore we shouldn't send peacekeepers, instead we're going to send administrators," he told ABC radio.
"The government's approach here is a minimal one ... because they hope this is a situation that will fix itself.
"What we require is an in-principle commitment now for full Australian participation in order that we can make sure that these next several crucial months are months where we can see some real progress made without anymore bloodshed." But Mr Downer insisted it was too dangerous to consider sending troops to East Timor.
"If ever there were to be a peacekeeping force and this doesn't (only) apply to East Timor, this applies to anywhere, there has to be a peace to keep. "There's no point going into some field of conflict, spending some time there as a force, probably suffering considerable casualties, eventually withdrawing the force and the conflict simply resumes."
However Mr Carrascalao said Australian soldiers would have nothing to fear in East Timor.
"When Australian soldiers land in East Timor to support the right of the East Timorese to have their say about their future, I personally guarantee that they will be welcomed with garlands of flowers," he said.
LOAD-DATE: March 15, 1999