/** reg.easttimor: 3122.0 **/

** Topic: Media critics have Administration 'bastards' on the defensive **
** Written 11:53 AM Sep 9, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: Media critics have Administration 'bastards' on the defensive

Sydney Morning Herald Friday, September 10, 1999

Media critics have Administration 'bastards' on the defensive

- An Australian official said: "America has had a bit of a shock in the last 24 hours at the treatment in the media about what bastards they are."

By GAY ALCORN, Herald Correspondent in Washington

The Clinton Administration official was becoming frustrated: "The Australian Government has stood by us and we are prepared to support what the Australian Government is trying to do. How many different ways can I say to you that the exercise has American support?"

The United States is increasingly defensive over international and now local criticism that it is putting pragmatism over humanitarianism in its cautious response to East Timor.

After days of uncertainty, the Defence Secretary, Mr William Cohen, made the Administration's position clear that ground troops, requested by Australia in initial discussions, were ruled out.

At the same time, the National Security Adviser, Mr Sandy Berger, said that while the US cared about East Timor it also "cared about Indonesia", which was "going through one of the most extraordinary transformations in the world" towards democracy.

"Because we bombed in Kosovo doesn't mean we should bomb Dili," he said.

Asked about the strain in the Australian-US alliance, Mr Berger, President Clinton's key foreign policy adviser, said: "Of course we don't value our relationship with Indonesia over our relationship with Australia. Australia is an ally of the United States."

The Administration official said it had never been suggested by Australia that "American combat troops on the ground in East Timor is a prerequisite for the success of this operation. That has never been said.

"The Australian Government has made clear to us that American support in real, tangible ways is critical to this operation. We hear that message, we understand that message and we appreciate that message. And we are prepared to respond and we have made it clear to our Australian friends that we will respond."

An Australian official said: "America has had a bit of a shock in the last 24 hours at the treatment in the media about what bastards they are."

The Administration official said that "we are impressed and grateful for the extent to which the Australian Government has exercised leadership at considerable expense and sacrifice" and that the US would bring its "special capabilities" to the peacekeeping plan.

Despite resistance from the Pentagon to US involvement, an announcement is close as to what support the US will offer.

Discussions were held yesterday between Australian officials and the White House, the State Department and the National Security Council about contributions such as tactical airlift, logistics, intelligence and planning support.

The Administration does not believe it can persuade the Republican-dominated Congress to deploy more troops in foreign lands. The US has leverage over the IMF and World Bank financial assistance, but even here, there are concerns that penalties may further destabilise Indonesia.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **