|Subject: SMH: UN backs Downer plan to beef up Timor
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 1999 10:01:52 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sydney Morning Herald Friday, August 6, 1999
UN backs Downer plan to beef up Timor force
By MARK RILEY, Herald Correspondent in New York
The United Nations will press Indonesia to accept an Australian plan to double the number of international police and military personnel in East Timor to tighten security after this month's independence ballot.
After weeks of private talks, Australia has gained crucial support from the United States and other UN members for a confidential proposal to send in an extra 200 to 300 police.
It has also won full UN backing for a plan to boost the international military presence from the present 50 advisers to between 250 and 350.
It is expected that Australia would provide up to a third of the additional forces, which would arrive around the time of the August 30 ballot.
Indonesia has given its tacit approval for the proposals after strong representations from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, on his recent visit to Jakarta and East Timor.
Senior UN officials told the Herald last night that they were confident of reaching final agreement with Indonesia in a series of meetings next week with senior military and government members in Jakarta.
They praised Australia's political and diplomatic efforts in clearing the way for the increased presence of UN personnel in the province.
Mr Downer and Australian departmental and diplomatic officials had argued that the UN force would need to be increased after the ballot in order to fulfil its Security Council mandate to advise local security forces and oversee Indonesian efforts to maintain peace.
The increased numbers would also allow the UN to better assess any violence following the self-determination vote, which will determine whether the territory moves towards complete independence from Indonesia.
Next week's negotiations in Jakarta will be divided into two categories - military and police officials having talks with a UN delegation on either Tuesday or Wednesday, and a meeting of senior officials on Thursday and Friday.
The UN team will be headed by its special envoy on East Timor, Mr Jamsheed Marker, and will include officials from the organisation's political, military and peacekeeping departments.
The agendas for the meetings were finalised at the UN last night after Indonesia decided at the last moment to pull out of a scheduled meeting of military and police officials in New York on Wednesday.
The Indonesians said they had been given insufficient notice of the security meeting but agreed to talks in Jakarta next week.
The breakthrough comes as the UN battles to meet a tight diplomatic timetable to comply with Security Council and US Congress requirements on police and military operations.
The Security Council agreed on Wednesday to extend the original mandate for the UN-sponsored self-determination process in East Timor by one month, taking it to the end of September.
But a new mandate will need to be sanctioned by the Security Council to approve the increased police and military presence in phase two of the process, which will begin on the day of the ballot.
The US pays for a third of such UN operations and under US law must be given two weeks' notice of any changes so that it can approve the necessary bill.
Because Congress goes into recess in 10 days, the pressure is on the Security Council to provide early notification of the increased commitment in East Timor.
UN officials said this placed greater importance on the need for next week's Jakarta talks to succeed.