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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Profile: Vietnam veteran leading Timor force

Major General Cosgrove: Militia should surrender their weapons

Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove has already earned himself a reputation as one of his country's most respected soldiers.

But the greatest challenge of his career could lie ahead of him, as he leads a multinational force of up to 8,000 troops to restore order in East Timor.

East Timor
The force is tasked with restoring peace and security to the people of East Timor.

Many have already been killed or forced from their homes by well-armed pro-Indonesian militia.


Major Gen Cosgrove warns militias
"I think the best thing for the militia would be to surrender their weapons and to become peaceful law-abiding East Timorese," Major General Cosgrove has said.

"If that is not to their liking, then maybe they need to leave East Timor."

Military honours

Major General Cosgrove heads Australia's Deployable Joint Forces Headquarters, which commands the nation's naval, air force and army personnel, both in Australia and overseas.

As a lieutenant, he was one of the thousands of Australians who fought alongside American troops in Vietnam.

It was there that, as a young man of 22, he won the Military Cross, one of Australia's highest military honours.


[ image:  ]
He was awarded for leading two daring attacks on enemy bunkers, and then repelling an attack when the Vietcong tried to win back the ground.

The citation listed his "determination, initiative, courage and inspiration to his platoon."

"He was obviously a good commander," said retired General Alby Morrison, who signed Mr Cosgrove's citation.

"He was ready to listen. He was not impulsive and he learnt quickly," he said in an interview with The Australian newspaper.

Other career highlights

  • Entered military college in Canberra in l965

  • Served with the Australian Army in Malaysia

  • Planned drought relief operations in Papua New Guinea.

Now 52, Major General Cosgrove says he is determined to bring peace to East Timor with as little force as possible.

"I'm going to do all I can to reduce the chance of an accident, an incident or a misunderstanding so that we can get about the task of protecting the East Timorese in accordance with the UN mandate.

"I believe under those circumstances, with all the goodwill we can muster and the goodwill I expect from the Indonesians, we will be able to have that transparency and avoid incidents."





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