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DATE=10/19/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=THAILAND - EAST TIMOR (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-255211 BYLINE=RON CORBEN DATELINE=BANGKOK CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Thailand says it is willing to take a leading role in a United Nations-sponsored force in East Timor, once the next phase of peacekeeping efforts gets underway. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, Thai Deputy Foreign Minister, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, says Thailand is ready to participate in several respects, including as commander of the U-N forces. TEXT: As the United Nations prepares to adopt a resolution for a U-N Transitional Authority in East Timor, Thailand says it is willing to assume the role of force commander to lead what are expected to be almost nine thousand troops. Thai deputy foreign minister, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, has told Australian Embassy officials, his country is ready to accept a leadership posiiton, as part of the U-N Transitional Authority on East Timor or UNTAT. The UNTAT operations are to cover government and civil administration, human resource and emergency rehabilitation, as well as the military component. The military's nearly nine thousand troops are to be backed up by a 16-thousand 400 strong civilian police force. The U-N resolution, diplomatic sources told VOA, will provide the U-N troops with the strongest mandate allowed under so-called "Chapter Seven" provisions of the organization's Charter. After meeting in Bangkok Tuesday with Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer commented that participation of Southeast Asian Nations is key to the success of the East Timor peacekeeping mission. Mr. Downer also praised Thailand. He said it is seen as playing a leading role both within ASEAN - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- and in the broader international community, in helping to resolve the problem of East Timor. But he added the decision about who leads UNTAT will be left with the U-N Secretary General, Kofi Annan. Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, has previously said his country is prepared to lead the U- N peacekeeping forces. But Kuala Lumpur's push to head the military component has been undermined by its initial reluctance to participate in the current multinational force, although later it made a token contribution. Thailand is seen as well-placed to be a candidate because of its willingness to send a troop and support force of 15-hundred and because Major General Songkitti Jagabatra currently holds the post of Deputy Commander. But Timorese independence leader, Jose Ramos-Horta has questioned whether any ASEAN country should be in a leadership position during the East Timor transition. He says ASEAN -- which includes Indonesia - is not neutral. NEB/RC/FC/PLM 19-Oct-1999 05:56 AM EDT (19-Oct-1999 0956 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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