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Peacekeepers Intensify Timor Patrols - 2001-08-29

In East Timor, international peacekeepers have intensified patrols to make sure the territory's first-ever independent elections Thursday are peaceful. U.N. officials say they do not expect any disruptions like the violence that erupted two years ago when East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia.

A spokesman for the international peacekeeping forces in East Timor told reporters on the eve of the vote that military patrols have been beefed up along the border with Indonesian West Timor. However, he indicated the move was a precaution, saying there is no evidence that militias who oppose independence will resume their attacks.

Commissioner of Police Jose Luis de Costa Souza says a total of 2,500 police, including 1,000 Timorese officers, have been mobilized. "All available resources from the international police plus the resources from the Timorese police were maximized to ensure security for the elections," he says.

There are fears that pro-Indonesia militias who have staged attacks since losing a referendum on independence two years ago might seek to destabilize Thursday's vote.

However, the head of the U.N. sponsored transitional administration, Sergio Vieira de Mello, predicts the elections will be calm, saying there are no indications of such incursions at this time. "Such incursions have not taken place," he said. "There are no indications they will take place. I believe the hard-core militia extremists learned a lesson from the way we dealt with the infiltration last year. And I hope they will not test us again, because they will regret it."

Nevertheless, Mr. de Mello advised the population to remain vigilant.

There are also fears of violence when the results are announced in about one week. However, the foreign affairs cabinet member of the transitional authority, Jose Ramos Horta, tells VOA, authorities are prepared for any incidents. "There could be some instability, frustration at the announcement of the results of the vote by one party or another," he says. "There could be, but we're taking preventive measures, politically but also of a security nature."

Mr. Ramos Horta said leaders of the transitional authority will be travelling around the country Thursday to encourage a peaceful vote.

More than 400,000 eligible voters are to cast their ballots for an 88-member assembly that is to draft a constitution by December. U.N. officials say they are preparing to name a new, all-Timorese transitional government when the results of Thursday's vote are announced.