Aussie soldiers back to East Timor

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Apr 11, 2005
South East Queensland
Troops are heading back to East Timor today.
Australian troops could arrive in Dili as early as Thursday afternoon to quell a rebellion by renegade soldiers.

Vice-Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie will lead an Australian delegation to East Timor on Thursday, offering up to 1,300 troops as well as armoured vehicles to keep the peace.

It is expected if the East Timorese government accepts the offer, the first Australian troops could arrive in the afternoon.

Two ships, HMAS Tobruk and HMAS Manoora, are already on their way to the fledgling country and a third ship, HMAS Kanimbla, is preparing to leave Darwin.

On Wednesday, gun battles raged around Dili for a second day running in clashes between the nation's military and disgruntled ex-soldiers.

East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta says he believes the arrival of Australian forces will have an immediate calming effect.

New Zealand and Portugal have confirmed they have also received requests for support.

Prime Minister John Howard will return from his tour of North America and Ireland on Thursday morning to chair a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet in Canberra.

But it was left to acting prime minister Peter Costello to announce the invitation from East Timor on Wednesday night.

Australia has begun evacuating non-essential government staff from Dili and is urging other Australians to consider leaving.

Airlines have been asked to schedule extra flights to get Australians who want to leave out of Dili.

Australia has been poised to act since five people were killed late last month during a protest by 600 soldiers sacked for desertion.

Commandoes have flown from Australia to Dili by blackhawk to secure the airport.;_ylu=X3oDMTA4NTMzazIyBHNlYwMxNjk2
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia sent commandos to East Timor's capital on Thursday ahead of the deployment of 1,300 troops to help restore law and order in the tiny nation.

Violence in the capital Dili has left at least six people dead in recent weeks and the arrival of Australian forces marks the second time Canberra has joined a U.N.-led mission to try to bring peace to East Timor.

Australia led a U.N.-backed intervention force in 1999 to quell violence by pro-Indonesian militias after East Timorese voted for independence from Jakarta. An estimated 1,000 people died in the violence.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the forward deployment of commandos had the full support of East Timor's government, which has formally asked Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal for police and military support.

"These Australian forces will take immediate action to secure the perimeter of Dili international airport," Howard told Australian Parliament, adding the deployment followed a "significant" deterioration of security around Dili.

Five people were killed and hundreds fled their homes when sacked East Timorese military policemen and government troops clashed in Dili late last month. A sixth person was killed on Tuesday when the violence reignited.

Howard said sustained fighting had broken out between the two groups in recent days, with reports of a number of casualties.

Two navy ships were already heading toward East Timor, and the deputy defense chief was sent to Dili on Thursday to finalize details of the deployment.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Australian embassy in Dili had reported gunfire and people fleeing the city on Thursday.

He said he hoped foreign troops would stabilize the country to allow the cash-strapped government to talk to rebel troops, who claim their dismissal was unfair.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, acting on behalf of East Timor's government, formally requested urgent U.N. Security Council approval of the offers of assistance.

But the council put off action for a few days after Russia, in a contentious closed-door session, argued the 15-nation body needed more information before it could vote, diplomats said.

"The failure to support the request of the government at this time is a pity," British Ambassador Emyr Jones Perry told Reuters. "We should have been stronger in our support for a country that is now in crisis."

Council members predicted action later this week on a resolution formally approving the offers of assistance.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese government said it would send 120 military police.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said a detachment of troops was ready to deploy, but she was waiting for more details.

"It's very important not to walk into what is a factional dispute, in some respects, and be seen to be taking sides," Clark said on National Radio.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and in 1976 declared it an Indonesian province after centuries of Portuguese control.

U.N. peacekeepers left a year ago and the U.N. mission of 130 administrators, police and military advisers was scheduled to finish in East Timor on May 20, but its term was extended for a month after the recent riots.
The NZ army trained a lot of the Indonesian / east Timorese soldiers as well. I think the PM is right here. We do need not to be SEEN to take sides especially when we are known to folk on both sides.

We have sent SOs to Dili to try and ascertain what they actually want and what the TOE are.

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