Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Gurkhas wait for Timor orders
Gurkhas were the first British troops to go into Kosovo
British troops are likely to be among the first to join a United Nations peacekeeping force in East Timor.
The announcement follows the decision by Indonesia's President BJ Habibie to allow UN troops into East Timor.
But the decision to include British troops in a peacekeeping force has been criticised by the shadow foreign secretary John Maples, who described the decision as a "token contribution".
'Worst of both worlds'
Mr Maples said: "I think this is a token contribution and in a sense it gives us the worst of both worlds.
"I would prefer to see no British participation in the force. I think we should give all the technical, intelligence, communications support that we possibly can to the peace keeping force that goes in."
Mr Maples said he believed British troops were already involved in too many operations, such as in Northern Ireland and Kosovo.
East Timor has disintegrated into chaos since a referendum on its future, which resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of independence from Jakarta.
Pro-independence militias, backed by sections of the military, have ransacked their way across the territory since the result was announced.
Mr Maples said: "The most important thing is to get a peacekeeping force in there with the right terms of engagement and the right equipment to restore order to East Timor and stop the killings and bring the militia under control."
Mr Maples said: "I think these operations should primarily be conducted by countries in the region.
"It shouldn't always fall to Britain, France and America to take the lead in these things, I'm delighted that that's happening.
"But I do think there are some very crucial questions outstanding which are the size, the composition, the equipment it takes with it, and what its terms of reference are."
Planning for peace
Work on the plans for the peacekeeping force will start immediately in New York, where the UN has its headquarters.
Speaking at the weekend, Mr Cook said: "Last Thursday I said that the international community would not allow East Timor's cry for freedom to be drowned in blood.
"I hope we now have the opportunity to keep that promise to stop the bloodshed in East Timor and to start East Timor on the road to freedom."
Mr Cook said it was also vital to get humanitarian aid to the many thousands of refugees and to start rebuilding East Timor to give the people there a "fresh start as a free country".
He added: "Britain played its part in the pressure on Indonesia to get this commitment.
"Britain is now ready to play its part in the contribution towards the UN peacekeeping force."
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