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Calls for troops to forego separate command

International Federation for East Timor Urges Fully Integrated UN Mission

Calls for Australian troops to forego separate command

The International Federation for East Timor (IFET) today said that the Security Council should create a new UN mission to Timor-Leste which fully integrates all international military components.

"Any other arrangement will hinder the effectiveness of the overall mission and runs contrary to the preference of the people and government of Timor-Leste and the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General," said John M. Miller, IFET UN Representative. "Australia's insistence on keeping its troops under a separate, national command structure will make coordination difficult, lessening the confidence and security that the UN Mission is intended to provide for the people of Timor-Leste.

The Security Council is expected to pass a resolution today creating the new mission which defers the decision on military command structure, leaving the current Australian-led Joint Task Force in place until after the Secretary-General reports on the issue by October 25. Australia has so far refused to place its troops under UN command, and the United Nations will not create the 345-soldier military component of the new integrated mission if a separate international military force is operating in Timor-Leste.

"An integrated mission is in the best interests of everyone, especially the East Timorese," said Charles Scheiner, International Secretariat for IFET "Many people in Timor-Leste already suspect the motives, capability and impartiality of the Australian forces there now, and Australia's refusal to be part of a UN force increases that distrust. Delaying this issue for another two months is unlikely to lead to a satisfactory resolution. More likely it will increase confusion and resentment in Timor-Leste."

"The new UN mission has great potential to help Timor-Leste recover from its recent troubles and continue on the path to peace, democracy and prosperity. But that potential is possible only if the UN and its member states carefully listen to the wishes of the Timorese people," he added.

In a statement this week, the Timor-Leste NGO Forum and others in civil society there urged an integrated mission, saying that "there will be a greater degree of accountability for UN forces as it is a civilian led, international, neutral institution." The group statement added that "There is an inherently unequal relationship in Timor-Leste's dealings with other more powerful countries on a bilateral basis. Working through the UN would avoid this situation."

Several countries, including a number of Timor-Leste's neighbors, are willing to contribute troops but will only do so if they are part of an integrated UN mission.

On August 25, the Security Council is expected to authorize the new UN mission for at least one year. It will include a large contingent of UN police, support for next year's presidential and parliamentary elections, and improving Timor-Leste's capacity to govern itself. The mission will also assist Timor-Leste to continue investigations into serious human rights crimes committed in 1999.

IFET was formed in 1991 to support East Timor's human and political rights at the United Nations. It has 34 member groups from 23 countries. Additional information can be found at http://www.laohamutuk.org/reports/UN/06StopAustraliaUN.html and www.etan.org.

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