Subject: Militia Less Capable Of Destabilizing East Timor - Report

Associated Press November 1, 1999

Militia Less Capable Of Destabilizing East Timor - Report

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The capacity of pro-Indonesian militias to destabilize East Timor has been reduced to a very low level, according to a report to the U.N on the operations of the multinational force released Monday.

In areas where militias are active, the Australian-led international force known as INTERFET said it "has demonstrated its ability to respond quickly and deal effectively with these incidents."

"While small groups of militiamen remain in East Timor, their ability to physically threaten the local population is largely gone," the INTERFET report said.

The U.N. Security Council authorized the international force to restore order after pro-Indonesian militias went on a killing, looting and burning rampage after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in an Aug. 30 U.N.-supervised ballot.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent the report on INTERFET's activities, which he received from Australia's U.N. Mission, to the Security Council.

The council on Oct. 25 authorized the U.N. to run East Timor during a two- to three-year transition to independence and voted to send a 9,150-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission to replace the 8,000-strong international force.

Bernard Miyet, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, said it would probably take two to four months for U.N. peackeepers to take over.

INTERFET said it would welcome early deployment of the U.N. force commander and his key staff to coordinate the hand over. Annan hasn't yet named a commander of the U.N. force.

Since INTERFET's arrival on Sept. 20, "the security situation has improved dramatically," the report said.

The most serious militia activity has been near East Timor's border with West Timor, which is still an Indonesian province.

"Although the western border regions pose a challenge to the maintenance of peace and security, the situation in East Timor has greatly improved over that facing INTERFET upon its arrival," the report said.

"Overall, the INTERFET coalition has achieved a very significant proportion of its mandate concerning the restoration of peace and security, with the key indicators being the increased level of security in towns and on roads, and the reduced incidence of violence against INTERFET," the report said.

"On the basis of progress to date, the expectation is that INTERFET will have achieved its mandate in time for the transition" to the U.N. peacekeeping operation, it said.

With the growing level of security, the report said the ability to distribute humanitarian aid continues to increase.

"The major humanitarian challenges facing the relief effort in East Timor at present are the return of large numbers of displaced persons (from both internal areas and West Timor) and the commencement of the wet season," it said.

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