Subject: Filipino general to head U.N. E Timor force

Filipino general to head U.N. East Timor force

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Major-General Jaime de los Santos of the Philippines will be the commander of U.N. peacekeepers to be sent shortly to East Timor, and Major-General Michael Geoffrey Smith of Australia will be deputy force commander, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.

De los Santos, who will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general for the assignment, is currently superintendent of the Philippines Military Academy. Smith is director-general in the Australian Department of Defence in charge of matters relating to East Timor.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has informed the Security Council of the intended appointments. De los Santo and Smith are expected to arrive in East Timor in mid-January.

The United Nations plans to field more than 8,000 troops in February to take over from an 11,000-strong Australian-led international force called INTERFET, commanded by Major-General Peter Cosgrove, that has restored order in the former Portuguese colony since mid-September.

Many of the INTERFET troops are expected to don blue helmets and serve under U.N. command.

The U.N. force will be a key part of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) that will remain there for two to three years to help ease the path to independence from Indonesia, which invaded the territory in 1975 and later annexed it.

UNTAET, which will include thousands of civilian administrators, is headed by Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, who arrived in East Timor last month.

Under an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, the United Nations organised a ballot on August 30 in which nearly 80 percent of East Timorese voters opted for independence from Indonesia.

This was followed by a rampage of killing and destruction by pro-Jakarta militias, supported by the Indonesian army.

De los Santos, 53, joined the Philippines armed forces in 1969 and has held a range of command and staff appointments, including as commanding general of an infantry division.

He is a graduate of the Philippines Military Academy and has attended the United States Command and General Staff course.

Smith, 49, joined the Australian armed forces in 1968 and has also held various command and staff appointments, including as commander of the 3rd Brigade.

He was a military observer with the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan and has served as Australian defence attache in Cambodia. He is a graduate of the Australian Royal Military Academy.

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