|Subject: US rules out sending armed UN peacekeepers
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999 17:36:44 EDT
US sees no prospect for sending armed UN peacekeepers to East Timor
WASHINGTON, Aug 23 (AFP) - The United States on Monday restated its concern about continued anti-separatist violence in East Timor but ruled out sending armed UN peacekeepers before the self-rule referendum late this month.
"We don't believe that the dispatch of armed UN peacekeepers before August 30 is possible at this point," State Department spokesman James Foley told reporters.
"We've got seven days before the vote takes place," Foley said, not an adequate window to revisit the security arrangements.
"Moreover, in a more fundamental sense, we believe this is the responsibility of the government of Indonesia, and we don't want to take that responsibility away from them," he continued.
A US congressional delegation, led by senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, toured East Timor over the weekend and urged Washington to press the UN Security Council to deploy an armed peacekeeping force in the Indonesian-ruled territory before the August 30 vote.
Foley noted that 280 civilian police and 50 military liaison officers were currently authorized as part of the UN mission in East Timor.
He stressed that the UN Security Council was expected to vote Friday on recommendation by UN Chief Kofi Annan that the civilian police be boosted to 460 and the military liaison unit to 300 officers until November 30.
"We share the concerns expressed by Senator Harkin and others about continued violence and intimidation on the part of the pro-integration militias in the campaign before next Monday's autonomy vote," Foley said. "We are regularly raising this concern, as does the UN, with key officials."
Despite the violence, the spokesman said Washington was hopeful the referendum would be held on schedule. "We very much call on all sides to look beyond the vote and to do all possible to ensure that the stability of East Timor is preserved, regardless of the outcome," he added.
The Jakarta government has said it may grant freedom to the former Portuguese colony it annexed in 1976, if the people of the territory reject the autonomy offer.
Campaigning in East Timor is due to end on Friday.