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East Timor - US Laws Delay Arrival of UN Police Monitors

17 Jun 1999

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 (IPS) - The UN's hopes of quickly deploying police monitors in increasingly volatile East Timor have hit a new snag, with US President Bill Clinton forced to delay US approval until he consults Congress.

With a vote on East Timor's status set for Aug. 8, UN officials had hoped to send an international police force to the Indonesian- occupied state long before that date.

Officials had planned to have slightly more than 270 police officers in place by the end of June.

The delay by Washington - necessitated by a 1993 directive issued by Clinton in the aftermath of Washington's bungled involvement in a UN mission in Somalia - likely will delay approval of the police by the 15-nation UN Security Council until June 10.

That in turn could complicate the entire voting timetable, say UN officials.

"There is a draft resolution in place" for Council approval of the police monitors, says Francesc Vendrell, director of the Asia/Pacific Division of the UN Department for Political Affairs.

However, he adds, "the United States has to give two weeks' notice to Congress" before it can approve the deployment of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). The United States is one of five veto-holding permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The delay is a result of Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25), issued by Clinton in response to criticism of US troop involvement in the troubled 1993 UN mission in Somalia.

The directive places strict conditions on US approval of any UN mission with peacekeeping implications, including the insistence that any mission have a definite end point and a limited mandate.

To placate Congress - which was upset about the idea of US troops serving under UN co  !"#$%&'()*+,-./0123456789:;<=>?@ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ[\]^_`abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz{|}~     !"#$%&'mid- June whether the conditions in East Timor are right for a fair ballot.

Under present conditions, some supporters of Timorese independence contend that a fair vote cannot be held. Recent violence by pro-Indonesia militias has forced some independence supporters underground, and some 35,000 Timorese have been driven from their homes to camps patrolled by pro-Indonesia forces.

Annan wrote a in a report this week that "credible reports continue to be received of political violence, including intimidation and killings, by armed militias against unarmed pro- independence civilians."

The Council responded swiftly to pass a draft resolution authorising a three-month deployment of UNAMET and took note of Annan's efforts to send military liaison officials to consult with Indonesian officers on the ground in East Timor. But the built-in US delay already has stalled the timetable.

UN officials remain upbeat that the world body is responding to the challenge with appropriate speed.

Robin Lustig, the UN official in charge of electoral arrangements, notes that 31 officers have already been sent to East Timor, and other assets - including some 20 vehicles and a helicopter - have been deployed already. Ian Martin, the head of the UNAMET team, is scheduled to arrive in East Timor next week.

Meanwhile, efforts to build up the police force - who will likely be unarmed and not authorised to use force - are continuing.

Vendrell says Australia has offered to send some 50 officers, while offers are also expected from Malaysia, New Zealand, the United States, Thailand and the Philippines.

Yet there is little sign that the international efforts have changed anything on the ground, where Indonesia - which invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 - still shows signs that it is unwilling to relinquish the territory.

"None of the news that we're getting from East Timor suggests that the situation has changed," says Jones, who adds that the "extremely deplorable conditions" on the ground could derail any effort at a fair vote by August. (END/IPS/fah/mk/99)

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