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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Timorese liberation joy

An Australian soldier guards a militia suspect

There have been scenes of jubilation in the East Timorese capital, Dili, as refugees pouring from their hiding-places in the hills have greeted the international peacekeeping force.

East Timor
Around 2,800 troops are expected to have been flown or shipped in by Tuesday night - but commanders are warning that securing the territory will take time.

"It will still be a number of weeks rather than days before we are in a position to have a pervasive presence," said Major-General Peter Cosgrove, the Australian commander of the International Force in East Timor (Interfet).

"It's too early for us to assert that the security situation is anything near approaching benign," he added.

Click here to see a map of latest developments in East Timor

As Australian soldiers marched through the burnt and looted streets of Dili, people emerged from side streets to cheer and dance for joy.


The BBC's Angus Roxburgh: "The troops are regarded as liberators"
They flashed "V" for victory signs and wore shirts bearing the image of pro-independence leader, Xanana Gusmao - the first time in weeks that people here have dared to display such allegiance.

In the village of Dare, six miles (10km) south of Dili, a convoy of Australian soldiers was greeted by crowds of people, lining the road and shouting independence slogans.

Mr Gusmao himself has called for a "new relationship of friendship" with Indonesia, which was "facing a very difficult process of democratisation".

"What happened in Timor was not the outcome of the policies of the government but rather the work of some rebel members of the Indonesian army," Mr Gusmao told reporters in Darwin, Australia.

Habibie on the defensive

As peacekeepers began to fan out across the territory - backed for the first time by reinforcements brought in by sea - Indonesia's President BJ Habibie accused Australia of overreacting to the Timor crisis.


[ image: President Habibie: A face-saving exercise]
President Habibie: A face-saving exercise
He told parliament in Jakarta that Australia - which is leading Intefet - had harmed relations with Indonesia with its "excessive and unhelpful" attitude.

It was the first time an Indonesian head of state had been summoned to appear before parliament.


The BBC's Jim Fish reports from Jakarta
Mr Habibie urged the Indonesian people to accept the East Timorese vote for independence.

Analysts have described the address as a "face-saving" exercise aimed at rescuing his damaged public standing.

The president made no mention of the violence unleashed by the pro-Jakarta militia following last month's ballot or the failure of the security forces to control them.

'No resistance'

The heavily-armed force, which has secured Dili's airport and harbour, has met little or no resistance since it began its deployment in the territory.

The first warship of the UN mission - a high speed catamaran of the Australian Navy carrying about 500 troops - arrived on Tuesday morning.


[ image: Villagers lined the road to Dare to greet Interfet]
Villagers lined the road to Dare to greet Interfet
However, shots were fired at empty offices in the Australian embassy on Monday night - there were no injuries.

But the multinational troops have been confronted with evidence of a scorched earth policy as it advances into East Timor.

Departing pro-Jakarta militiamen have continued to torch the homes of those who supported independence.

Flames were seen rising from at least two Dili neighbourhoods on Monday night, and there were reports of numerous fires around Liquica 19 miles (30km) away.

But reports say hundreds of militiamen have established new bases in the border area between the east and west.

Interfet soldiers have arrested several armed men in Dili and confiscated their weapons, including rifles, pistols and machetes.

Warning to militias

The Indonesian army says it has given clear instructions to Timorese militia not to attack the multinational peacekeeping force.


[ image: Troops watch houses burn in a village near Dili]
Troops watch houses burn in a village near Dili
The commander for the region which covers both East Timor and West Timor said they would be "brought to justice" if they carried out any acts of violence.

Peacekeepers say the priority is to get help to the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled into the mountains to escape the militiamen.

Some are reported to be dying of malnutrition and disease.

The Red Cross said 600,000 people were now displaced within the territory, and another 200,000 had gone to West Timor and outlying islands.

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