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Sunday, September 19, 1999 Published at 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Timor troops due within hours

Preparing the way: Gen Cosgrove met Indonesian military leaders in Dili

The first contingent of international peacekeepers charged with ending the violence in East Timor is expected to arrive in a few hours.

East Timor
Indonesia's military leader in the territory, Major-General Kiki Syahnakri, said the first wave of the multinational troops, led by Australia, would arrive at 0630 on Monday (2230 GMT).

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh reports on the UN peacekeeping troops
He said that following his earlier talks with the commander of the UN-backed forces, he expected to hand over full control of the territory within a few days.

Gen Syahnakri said that 2,500 troops would be on the ground by the end of Monday.

[ image:  ]
Six aircraft are flying a total of 37 sorties to bring the troops from the northern Australian port of Darwin.

The troops' first mission will be to seize control of the capital Dili from pro-Indonesia militias who have ravaged the territory since 78.5% of the electorate voted for independence.

As the force prepared to leave, Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, said that the mission could be long and dangerous.

"The troops are very well trained. They are very prepared and anxious to get away," he said in a nationwide radio address.

Australian prime minister, John Howard: "Australia's quarrel is not with the Indonesian people"
"We wish them a very safe return."

The Australian commander of the multinational mission, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, said he had received "first class co-operation" from Indonesian military authorities when he met them in Dili.

He said the troops did not want to "bully" their way around the territory, rather their priority was to create a safe environment.

The BBC's Ben Brown reports from Darwin: "D-day is tomorrow"
But speaking in Darwin before leaving for Dili, he said his troops would respond robustly to any trouble.

He urged the East Timor militias responsible for the violence to lay down their weapons.

He said the militias should "return to their homes and get on with their lives".

Click here to see maps of the military build-up and refugee camps in East Timor.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Dili: "The Australian troops will have to be prepared for the possibility of some resistance"
"It is hard to say that these same militias will feel like trying their hand against a modern military force," he said.

But he said he anticipated "some disquiet" when his troops arrive.

Pro-Indonesia militia leader Eurico Guterres said on Sunday that his men would not be pushed out of East Timor by the UN force.

He told the French news agency AFP that the territory should be split in two to accommodate those wanting to remain part of Indonesia.

Soldiers prepare

Gen Cosgrove said some 3,200 troops would be on the ground within seven days. A full deployment of 7,500 is expected to be completed by mid-October.

Nine warships, some carrying guided missiles, set sail for East Timor on Saturday from Darwin, led by Australia's HMAS Adelaide.

The fleet has taken up final positions off the coast of East Timor before landings begin.

Dili burns

As the peacekeepers prepared to deploy, there were reports of continuing bloodshed in the territory.

[ image: Empty streets: Agencies say thousands have fled Dili]
Empty streets: Agencies say thousands have fled Dili
BBC correspondents who have returned to Dili have reported East Timorese civilians coming under further attacks from militias and Indonesian soldiers.

They reported that areas of the capital were still under militia control and the UN-backed force would face a lot of work in its first few days.

New figures released by the Red Cross suggest that almost the entire East Timorese population has been displaced by the violence since the vote for independence.

In a statement, the organisation said 600,000 people were now displaced within the territory, and another 200,000 had gone to neighbouring West Timor and outlying islands.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, is visiting East Timorese refugees living in camps in West Timor.

She said she had received some co-operation from the Jakarta authorities and called for more international assistance.

But correspondents say the conditions for East Timorese refugees in West Timor remain grim, with persistent reports of intimidation by the anti-independence militias.

Xanana Gusmao, leader of the East Timorese resistance movement, arrived in Darwin on Sunday after leaving his British Embassy refuge in Jakarta.

A spokesman for Mr Gusmao said that he was now beginning to plan a provisional government of independence and a delegation to go to the World Bank.

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