Indonesian peacekeepers off to Lebanon


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November 5, 2006

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian Military (TNI) heavy vehicles and equipment left Jakarta for Lebanon on a U.S.-flagged ship Saturday ahead of the dispatch of 850 troops to join the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

The U.S. Embassy said in statement that the cooperation represented renewed military-to-military cooperation between the two countries.

The TNI vehicles and gear, 200 items in all, painted bright white with the U.N. attributes, were loaded aboard SS Wilson, a U.S.-flagged ship hired for the mission by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Later this month, 850 Garuda XXIIIA troops are due to arrive in Lebanon to meet up with the equipment and join the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Indonesia will join 20 other nations comprising UNIFIL.

The equipment consisted of armored personnel carriers, five-ton trucks, trailers, patrol vehicles, ambulances, construction equipment, water tanks, and shipping containers containing various supplies.

The statement said personnel from the U.S. Army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) orchestrated the advance planning with TNI.

"We've been working with the Indonesian Military for several weeks to coordinate the arrival of equipment at the port as well as to develop a plan to load it aboard the vessel," SDDC Commander Lt. Col. Colice Powell said as quoted in the embassy statement.

The departure of Indonesian peacekeeping troops has been delayed several times with UNFIL citing technical problems in Lebanon.

Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation, was quick to support the UN plan for an international peacekeeping force to enforce a cease-fire between Israel and Hizbollah.

Initially, Israel objected to Indonesia's participation in the peacekeeping mission on the grounds that the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. Indonesia has from the outset said it would refuse to disarm Hizbollah guerrillas.

Wilson is a break-bulk vessel belonging to Sealift, Inc. of Long Island, New York. The ship is solely for U.S. government use, and most recently delivered grain to Mombasa, Kenya for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the statement said.

The 185 meter, 32,000-ton Wilson will make the 5,690 mile journey to Beirut.