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Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Peacekeepers fan out from Dili

The peacekeepers have established a presence in Baucau

By Clive Myrie in East Timor

Six days into the peacekeeping operation, the international peacekeepers have finally spread their wings across East Timor.

When a convoy from the International Force in East Timor (Interfet) made the journey from Dili to the territory's second city Baucau on Saturday, it was the first time peacekeepers had ventured into the countryside.

[ image: The road between Dili and Baucau is desolate and destroyed]
The road between Dili and Baucau is desolate and destroyed
Along the115km (70 miles) of road, no-one was working the fields. The convoy headed east, across a wasteland of torched buildings destroyed in the recent violence. Again, there were few signs of life.

Most people were forced by militia groups to go and live in refugee camps near West Timor. Others fled the area.

Eventually the convoy of soldiers and a UN assessment team reached the town of Baucau. People in the town had known that the peacekeepers were in Indonesia, and now at last they were able to meet them.

'Security is key'

The hope now is the UN's wider presence will see refugees return to their villages to get the humanitarian aid they need.

"If the people are not back down in the main settlements, it would be a very difficult job to distribute food to the mountains," said UN humanitarian expert Dr Gilbert Greenall.

"Security is key, and people have to feel secure and and start to come back."

[ image: The arrival of the convoy was a major event in Baucau]
The arrival of the convoy was a major event in Baucau
But establishing a UN presence in the border area with West Timor will be particularly difficult.

Although this is where thousands of refugees are living in poor conditions, it is also where the pro-Jakarta militias are most active.

If the UN wants to help the refugees, it may have to pick a fight.

Most of the troops in the once all-powerful Indonesian army don't want to pick a fight here.


On Sunday, they had time to sell their rations to the East Timorese before boarding ships back to Jakarta.

[ image: It is important for the UN to develop a presence throughout East Timor]
It is important for the UN to develop a presence throughout East Timor
But some couldn't resist a last sideswipe at the land that rejected them.

Diesel oil was poured all over the floor of Dili's main bank and a match thrown on top.

Although Dili continues to burn the peacekeepers are confident they will succeed in bringing peace and stability to this land and its people.

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