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Dili residents celebrate as peacekeeping force grows

Family
This family welcomes the arrival of peacekeepers in Dili  
 ALSO:
U.S. Defense Secretary Cohen to visit Australia

Xanana Gusmao hopes to return to East Timor soon

'Reluctant warriors' order U.S. troops to East Timor

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ASIAWEEK
   On the Firing Line
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related videoRELATED VIDEO
East Timorese are joyous at the landing of peacekeepers. CNN's Maria Ressa talks with them. (September 21)
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CNN's Martin Savidge looks at the international peacekeepers' work in East Timor (September 21)
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      28 K 80 K

InteractiveINTERACTIVE
East Timor: Images of the past

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But potential for violence remains in much of East Timor

September 21, 1999
Web posted at: 11:38 p.m. HKT (1538 GMT)


In this story:

Deadly clash near border

Habibie defends policy

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



From staff and wire reports

DILI, East Timor (CNN) -- As the presence of an international peacekeeping force in East Timor grows, so do the hopes of pro-independence East Timorese after weeks of terror and violence.

Thousands of exuberant residents of the capital of Dili, who fled to the hills after a referendum on independence sparked rampages by pro-Jakarta militias, are returning to the burnt-out city.

One woman says she has not seen her husband in more than two weeks. Her family's home was burned and their belongings looted. But she and her children are smiling now and raising their fists for independence.

"We are not afraid anymore. We feel safe," the woman's daughter said.

"What was really a ghost town when I stopped by here on my reconnaissance the other day is starting to come alive," said peacekeeping commander Peter Cosgrove on Tuesday.

"Simply where we stand, we're having a good effect," Cosgrove said, briefing reporters on the second day of the U.N. mission to stabilize the territory. "So far, so good."

The arrival of Australian Blackhawk helicopters triggered a minor dust storm at the Dili airport Tuesday, while trucks and armored vehicles rolled ashore from the small naval armada off the coast.

But the multinational force, now numbering more than 2,000 troops, is still way below its final strength of 7,500 and has yet to fan out through Dili and beyond. Until it does so, security is a daytime illusion and the potential for violence remains.

Deadly clash near border

Four people were killed in a gun battle on Tuesday between East Timorese resistance fighters and a pro-Jakarta militia, a militiaman said.

Three members of the Falintil pro-independence resistance carried out a roadblock about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Dili when militiamen forced their way through in an attempt to reach West Timor.

"At first we thought only one person was armed but then we realized that three carried arms," said the militiaman, who asked not to be identified.

"We were carrying five M-16s with us," he added.

Three of the militiamen and one resistance member were reported to have died in the clash, in the Loes-Maubara area near the border with West Timor.

The militias are accused of killing thousands of people in the brutal backlash following the August 30 ballot. East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to end 23 years of Indonesian rule in the referendum organized by the United Nations.

An estimated 140,000 East Timorese, including both supporters and opponents of independence, have fled the bloodshed to West Timor. Militiamen have also taken refuge there as the multinational troops began to arrive to restore order.

As many as 300,000 Timorese have been made homeless by the upheaval.

Habibie
Habibie  

Habibie defends policy

Indonesia's military has been accused of aiding the militias in their attacks on independence supporters, and thousands have demonstrated in Jakarta against letting East Timor separate from the country.

In a rare appearance before parliament on Tuesday, Indonesian President B.J. Habibie defended his policy on East Timor and urged lawmakers to accept the province's independence as a means to restore the country's tarnished international image.

"We should accept the desires of the East Timorese," Habibie said. "We have to seek ways in a democratic manner for us to be accepted by the international community."

Habibie relented to enormous international pressure and agreed September 12 to allow an international peacekeeping force into East Timor, after Indonesian troops failed to restore law and order.

The move was unpopular among members of Habibie's ruling Golkar party, the military and opposition parties.

"I have done the best I could," Habibie declared. His appearance was the first time any Indonesian president went before parliament to explain his policy.

Habibie urged lawmakers "to move forward" by resolving the conflict. The 500-member People's Consultative Assembly is expected to meet next month to decide whether to ratify the ballot results.

Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa, Correspondent Martin Savidge and Reuters contributed to this report.

ASIANOW


RELATED STORIES:
New wave of peacekeepers sails into East Timor
September 20, 1999
Troops arrive in East Timor, peacekeeping mission begins
September 19, 1999
Armed with U.N. approval, Australia prepares for East Timor mission
September 15, 1999
Security Council pushing for late-night vote on East Timor force
September 14, 1999
Indonesia placing no conditions on East Timor force
September 13, 1999
Clinton urges rapid East Timor troop deployment
September 12, 1999
Indonesia rejects immediate use of peacekeepers in East Timor
September 11, 1999
U.N. mission to assess bloodied East Timor firsthand
September 10, 1999

RELATED SITES:
United Nations Home Page
Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights
Indonesian Embassy
  • Government of Indonesia
  • Facts about Indonesia
East Timor Action Network/U.S.
East Timor Human Rights Centre
East Timor: Past, Present and Future
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Online News - East Timor Referendum 1999
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
World Vision - Terror in East Timor
See related sites about Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian media
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

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