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Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

US boosts Timor force

William Cohen arrives in Darwin on his brief stop-over

By Fiona Anderson in Darwin

The United States Defence Secretary, William Cohen, has offered to boost the American contingent of the multi-national force in East Timor.

Mr Cohen said that 260 Americans were already providing intelligence and legistical support for the UN operation.

And he announced that a team of 130 communications specialists would be despatched shortly from Arizona to Darwin, and then on to Dili.

Four CH-53 heavy-lifting helicopters would be sent from the US base at Okinawa in Japan, he added.

[ image: Mr Cohen meets the troops heading for Dili]
Mr Cohen meets the troops heading for Dili
Mr Cohen was speaking in Darwin, where he stopped over on his way to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to review US troops preparing to join the East Timor force.

He said further specialised planning and intelligence support would be provided to help the mission.

Now he's in Jakarta, the Defence Secretary is expected to have several top-level meetings on Thursday - with President BJ Habibie, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and the Commander of Indonesia's armed forces, General Wiranto.

Mr Cohen said the Indonesian government had a "clear obligation" to protect East Timorese refugees now in West Timor, and to allow them to return home safely.

He said US military ties with the Indonesian army would not be resumed until there had been an inquiry into the military's role in the events in East Timor.

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