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skuthorp
05-25-2006, 03:12 AM
About 30 minutes ago 125 Aussie special forces dropped into Dili (East Timor) airport. The government requested help, there's been a firefight between police, army and ex-army personell going on for several days. Several helicopters and a warship have arrive also.

Foreign troops head towards East Timor

By Lirio da Fonseca

DILI (Reuters) - Australian commandos were sent to East Timor on Thursday to secure the capital's airport ahead of the deployment of 1,300 troops to help restore law and order in the tiny nation.

Violence in the capital has left at least six people dead in recent weeks as the inexperienced and cash-strapped government of the world's newest independent nation struggles to cope with clashes initially sparked by the sacking of around half the army.

A Reuters witness said there was widespread shooting in the

capital on Thursday and some buildings had been razed. Foreigners as well as local residents were seen leaving the city.

Despite a population under a million and a land mass only slightly bigger than the Bahamas, East Timor has been the scene of a complex international tug of war and a bloody independence struggle for 30 years.

This week the government asked for troops from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia to help after a police unit rebelled and its own forces proved incapable of calming the situation.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the deployment of commandos on Thursday had East Timor's full support.

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

Commercial flights were reportedly continuing in and out of the airport, but the U.S. state department urged citizens to make plans to leave and ordered out all non-essential staff.

At their worst, clashes over the past two months have involved gunbattles and widespread arson, sending thousands to seek safety in the hills, or on the grounds of embassies, religious institutions and military installations.

The ostensible reason for the unrest is unhappiness of sacked soldiers over firings, benefits and discrimination.

However, government officials say opposition groups have tried to exploit the situation, sparking attacks and resisting mediation efforts. Fear and panic have been fanned by rumours spread by handphone text messaging.

SHOW OF FORCE

Government leaders suggest a show of force by foreign troops might be enough to calm the population and stop the violence, without the soldiers actually having to engage in combat.

East Timor is one of the world's poorest countries but has potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves that could inject up to $14.5 billion (7.8 billion pounds) into its struggling economy.

It is also strategically placed amidst territory belonging to one-time ruler Indonesia, with Australia its other nearest neighbour and one that has already been militarily involved.

Australia led a U.N.-backed intervention force in 1999 to quell violence after East Timorese voted for independence. An estimated 1,000 people died in that violence, blamed mostly on pro-Jakarta militia backed by Indonesian military elements.

Despite that rocky history, Indonesia has been trying to improve trade and political ties with Dili since independence.

"What we hope is to see a Timor Leste (East Timor) which is peaceful, prosperous and developing," Desra Percaya, Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman, said on Thursday.

As for the foreign troop deployment, he said: "We think that the government of Timor Leste knows best about what is happening and what kind of steps that need to be taken."

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.

When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, and in 1976 declared it an Indonesian province after centuries of Portuguese control, the U.N. never recognised Jakarta's legitimacy.

That helped encourage a simmering pro-independence rebellion and a U.N. feeling of responsibility for making East Timor a success once it became independent.

Separately Portugal, which had strongly influenced the culture and educated the elite, remained interested and involved.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese government said it would send 120 military police to help in the security effort.

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 due to the clashes.

(Additional reporting by James Grubel and Michelle Nichols in Canberra and Achmad Sukarsono in Jakarta)

formerlyknownasprince
05-25-2006, 03:42 AM
Gee - couldn't see that one developing eh?

Teething problems for the new nation. Nip it in the bud now - disarm the rebels - stick the leaders in gaol?

skuthorp
05-25-2006, 03:46 AM
The 'leader', a Major something, was on radio professing love and kisses (almost) to the Australians. We trained him I think. There are others though not under his control.

(Evidently the locals cheered when they landed but the situation is not good.)

formerlyknownasprince
05-25-2006, 05:07 AM
Yes - plenty profess love and kisses until the adrenaline gets flowing.

I got to fight my own little war last Friday night - a friend asked my wife and I to help with his son's 18th birthday party. It got ugly at the end - the 200 invitees turned into 400 plus - then some bottles got thrown. The girls were the biggest problem - and drew the most blood. Only two guys decided they wanted my head - one was comic - he lost it when I asked him to quieten down - screamed at me - then tore his own shirt off and ripped it up - he didn't quite have the courage to follow through on his words - I got his mates to cart him off as about 8 car loads of cops arrived.

Next mate who asks for this sort of help will get the advice I gave my son for his 18th (in about 2 weeks time) - organise some tents and I'll ferry them to a spot up river and provide a genset for the music. No blow-in Lebs (unless they swim in).

Not meaning to detract from the volatile situation in Dili - but the same process follows - you could see it on TV tonight - the violence escalates rapidly.

skuthorp
05-25-2006, 05:45 AM
Igatenby, you know I don't have very high opinion of our PM, but his moves here are right on the ball and 'in time'. If he'd left a vaccuum the Indonesians might hav ventured in instead and that would have been fun! I doubt Beasley would have the confidence, the internal support or the bottle. He wouldn't have the ready access to 'powerful friends' either of course.

PeterSibley
05-25-2006, 06:19 AM
All either of them need is an invitation...which they had ,bloody mess but it will sort itself .

Ian...been to that party, it was in Beenleigh south of Brisbane ,same kids ,same golf clubs...different ethnic mix, same tetosterone.