INTRO: Defense Secretary William Cohen says
Washington is sending more helicopters, troops and a
large ship to help the peacekeeping force in East
Timor. The announcement comes as defense officials
say pro-Indonesia militias may be planning attacks on
the Australian-led peacekeeping troops in the troubled
territory. As V-O-A's Jim Randle reports, Mr. Cohen
will warn Jakarta Thursday that such attacks could
have serious consequences
Text: A senior U-S defense official says there are
signs that militia groups may be planning attacks on
the several thousand members of the peacekeeping force
in East Timor.
The official told reporters traveling with Defense
Secretary William Cohen that these militias have
between two and four thousand members loosely
organized into two dozen groups, with many operating
in West Timor.
Pro-Jakarta militia groups are blamed for the wave of
violence that followed East Timor's overwhelming vote
to break away from Indonesia. The widespread attacks
left many dead and many homes and businesses in ashes.
The official, who asked not to be named, warned that
any attacks would bring a quick response with
diplomatic, political and economic measures.
Earlier, at a press conference in Darwin, Australia,
Mr. Cohen announced he is dispatching more U-S
military force to help the peacekeepers, including
U-S officials say the rainy season will arrive soon in
East Timor, turning the territory's many dirt roads
into a muddy mess that will slow or stop the trucks
carrying food aid to hundreds of thousands of people
displaced by recent violence.
Defense Secretary Cohen says the four powerful CH-53
helicopters will be sent from a base in Japan aboard a
large U-S Navy ship. The big helicopters can fly over
impassable roads to move relief supplies or military
equipment from the airport at East Timor's capital,
Dili, into the hills where displaced people are
/// COHEN ACT ///
These helicopters will operate from the deck of
the U-S-S Belleau Wood. The ship is currently
loading in Okinawa and will arrive in the area
of East Timor in a matter of days. Australia
asked for heavy-lift helicopter support, and we
are deploying the U-S-S Belleau Wood, which is
an amphibious carrier, as a platform for those
helicopters. It has space to provide
maintenance and other support (for the
/// END ACT ///
The ship will also be bringing 19 other, smaller
helicopters, including some heavily-armed gunships.
Besides the helicopters, Mr. Cohen says the United
States is dispatching a 130-member communications unit
that will allow commanders to speak to their troops
and with little fear the conversations will be
overheard by Indonesian military or militia units.
U-S officials say they have no plans to deploy U-S
combat troops in East Timor.
The new deployments follow two days of talks between
Mr. Cohen and Australian officials. Australia is
leading the multinational peacekeeping force, which
has several thousand troops in East Timor.
Mr. Cohen is scheduled to have talks Thursday with
Indonesia's president (B-J Habibie), leading
opposition figures, and military commander (General
/// COHEN ACT ///
I will stress that the government of Indonesia
has an obligation to allow refugees in West
Timor to return safely to East Timor, without
interference or harm from the militia.
/// END ACT ///
Human rights groups say 150-thousand people displaced
by militia attacks in East Timor are now in West
Timor, where some are being held against their will by
pro-Indonesian militia groups.
Mr. Cohen will also press demands for democratic and
military reform, and urge the Jakarta government to
begin its own investigation of reported atrocities in
East Timor. (Signed)
29-Sep-1999 09:06 AM EDT (29-Sep-1999 1306 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list