Cohen says no U.S. troops planned for East Timor
Wednesday, September 8th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration said today the
United States has no plans to contribute troops to any peacekeeping
force in East Timor and suggested Indonesia's failure to resolve
the crisis could result in a loss of financial support.
"The United States is not planning an insertion of any
peacekeeping forces," Defense Secretary William Cohen said.
White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said any such
force would be "overwhelmingly Asian in character."
"Because we bombed in Kosovo doesn't mean we have to bomb in
Dili," the provincial capital, Berger said. He called on
Indonesian authorities "to quickly assert control" to halt the
post-election violence in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony
annexed by Indonesia.
Berger hinted that failure by Indonesia to resolve the crisis,
or to request the assistance of the international community, could
result in a withholding of Western financial support to the
populous island nation.
He said any international peacekeeping force would be assembled
at the request of Indonesia and with its consent. Berger said no
decision had yet been made by the United States on the nature of
"The Indonesian government has said it intends to address this
situation on its own. But today we have seen little evidence of
that. If this continues to be the case, then it should invite the
international community to assist in restoring order and
security," Berger said.
He said the crisis is "a test of whether Indonesia is genuinely
moving toward democratic rule and political stability."
"How the Indonesian government deals with the challenge in East
Timor will have implications for the capacity of the international
community to support Indonesia's economic program," Berger said.
Earlier, White House, spokesman Joe Lockhart said, "We will
look at what is the appropriate level of assistance we can give,
whether it be logistical or technical support or other. But I can
tell you that there's been no decision made on that."
Lockhart said economic assistance to Indonesia from Washington
and multilateral organizations "is dependent on them adopting an
approach that will restore order and avert a humanitarian
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific forces commander,
Adm. Dennis Blair, confirmed that Blair would visit Indonesia this
week. The Malaysian news agency Bernama reported he would meet
Thursday with Indonesia's top commander, Gen. Wiranto, in Jakarta.
The spokesman, Lt. Col. Dewey Ford in Honolulu, said he had no
details on the visit.
Cohen, responding bluntly to questions from reporters on the
Pentagon lawn, said it is up to the Indonesian government and the
international community to respond to the violence in East Timor.
Cohen said military-to-military contacts with Indonesia would
continue, although there have been no joint military exercises
since June 1998. A U.S.-Indonesian training exercise focused on
humanitarian and disaster relief activities concluded Aug. 25.
Cohen called upon the Indonesian government to act "swiftly and
effectively" to quell violence caused by anti-independence militia
groups defying the vote by East Timorese to become an independent
"The government of Indonesia is responsible for bringing order
and peace to East Timor," Cohen said.
He did not spell out what U.S. reaction would be but repeated
assertions that the United States cannot act as the world's
policeman and has to be selective in crises where it commits
"I think it's premature for the United States to be talking
about any peacekeeping force at this time," Cohen said.
There has been a dramatic deterioration in the security
situation in East Timor since the referendum nine days ago, giving
rise to a number of calls for the establishment of a U.N.-sponsored
international peacekeeping force.
The Clinton administration has made clear it has no plans for
any high-profile involvement in such a force but also has not ruled
out the possibility of some support role.
If such a force is formed, "We would obviously look at ways to
be helpful," State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said
Meanwhile, East Timorese activist Jose Ramos Horta, co-winner of
the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, told a news conference in Washington
today that the Timorese people "need an unequivocal commitment to
send a peace enforcement mission to East Timor" or else they
"will be doomed."
If the United Nations fails to act, "I don't think people
around the world will ever again trust the United Nations," Horta
He also called for a freeze on World Bank and International
Monetary Fund programs for Indonesia as a means of bringing added
pressure on the Jakarta government.