Subject: SMH: Gusmao wants his fighters in peace force
Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 09:08:36 -0400

Sydney Morning Herald 28/09/99

Gusmao wants his fighters in peace force

By MARK RILEY, Herald Correspondent in New York

The East Timorese resistance leader, Mr Jose Xanana Gusmao, will urge the United Nations this week to allow 3,000 of his Falintil fighters to join the Australian-led forces and man the front line in East Timor.

In a move likely to raise strong objections from Indonesia, Mr Gusmao wants his pro-independence guerillas to be added to the official peacekeeping effort and patrol the dangerous border areas between East and West Timor once the territory reverts to UN control.

Mr Gusmao is planning to tell the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, that his fighters believe it is their duty to join the international effort and would ask to be positioned where the possibility of armed conflict is greatest.

Mr Gusmao and his fellow resistance leader Mr Jose Ramos Horta raised the proposal in private talks with the US Secretary of State, Dr Madeleine Albright, in New York on Sunday night.

Mr Ramos Horta later told the Herald that up to 3,000 Falintil fighters were prepared to put their lives on the line to protect the refugees returning from the border areas.

"We feel it is our responsibility to go into the highest risk areas where the possibility of fatalities is the greatest," he said.

"The Australian Government and Interfet should be pleased that we are prepared to go to the front line and that if there are fatalities it will be our soldiers and not theirs."

Mr Gusmao will now ask Mr Annan in private discussions today to sanction the use of his fighters once Indonesia formally accepts the outcome of the August 30 independence vote and the territory officially falls under UN administration.

Mr Ramos Horta said: "We want to make it clear that we are prepared to leave the final decision to the UN and Interfet on if and when Falintil should be integrated into the peace-keeping effort."

He could guarantee that Falintil fighters would remain disciplined if they became part of the peacekeeping effort and would not seek retribution for the militia's terror campaign, he said.

"We now need to show the rest of the world that we are prepared to protect our own people and our own country and that we do not expect Australia and the US to continue to do it for us forever."

Meanwhile, Mr Gusmao said he would fly to Washington today to meet the Australian head of the World Bank, Mr James Wolfensohn, to discuss a reconstruction plan for East Timor. "I believe that East Timorese people, with the help of the international community - especially the United States - can build a new country where love and democracy will be our most important ideals," he said.


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