Timor-Leste

Excerpts: Clinton on U.S. Role in East Timor Peacekeeping Force

(Will contribute to force in limited but essential way) (710)

President Clinton announced that the United States will support the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor with communications and logistical aid, intelligence, airlifts of personnel and material, and coordination of the humanitarian response.

In remarks in Washington September 16, the President said: "After consulting closely with Congress and with the government of Australia on the best way for the United States to support this operation, and on the recommendation of Secretary Cohen and my national security team, I have decided to contribute to the force in a limited, but essential, way -- including communications and logistical aid, intelligence, air lifts of personnel and material and coordination of the humanitarian response to the tragedy."

U.S. forces, the President said, will deploy about 200 people, about half of whom will serve on the ground in East Timor.

"In addition," he said, "elements of the Pacific Fleet will provide support."

The President said the peacekeeping mission is in America's interest for several reasons, including Indonesia's future as a potential leader in the region and the world. "All Asians and Americans have an interest in a stable, democratic, prosperous Indonesia," he said.

Fundamental U.S. values are also at stake in East Timor, he said. "The election on August 30th ... produced a clear mandate for independence," the President said. "The violence since is abhorrent to all of us who care about human dignity and democracy."

Following are excerpts from the White House transcript:

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(The Roosevelt Room)

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 16, 1999

President's Statement on East Timor

THE PRESIDENT: Before I depart for the FEMA Operations Center, I'd like to say just a few words about East Timor ....

First, I'm pleased that the U.N. Security Council has approved the creation of a multi-national force to be led by Australia, to deploy as soon as possible to end violence, restore order and support the results of the August 30 referendum, where the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence.

After consulting closely with Congress and with the government of Australia on the best way for the United States to support this operation, and on the recommendation of Secretary Cohen and my national security team, I have decided to contribute to the force in a limited, but essential, way -- including communications and logistical aid, intelligence, air lifts of personnel and material and coordination of the humanitarian response to the tragedy.

We will deploy about 200 people, about half of whom will serve on the ground in East Timor. In addition, elements of the Pacific Fleet will provide support. I am especially encouraged that Asian nations will be taking the primary responsibility. The overall force will contain about 7,500 people, roughly half will be Australian; and I understand that Thailand and many other Asian nations will contribute, as well as governments from outside the region.

This mission is in America's interests for several reasons. Indonesia's future is important to us, not only because of its resources and its sea lanes, but for its potential as a leader in the region and the world. It is the fourth most populous nation in the world; the largest Muslim nation in the world. All Asians and Americans have an interest in a stable, democratic, prosperous Indonesia.

Our fundamental values are also at stake in East Timor. The election on August 30th was conducted fairly, under the leadership of the U.N., with the agreement of the Indonesian government. It produced a clear mandate for independence. The violence since is abhorrent to all of us who care about human dignity and democracy.

Of course, on any mission like this, there are dangers and risks of casualties. There remains a great deal of work ahead; but this force is well equipped for the job, and it is a job that is in the interests of peace and stability....

Q: Mr. President, did you consult the leaders? You say you consulted the leaders on the force, this very small force?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes....

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