Office of the Press Secretary
(The Roosevelt Room)

For Immediate Release Thursday, September 16, 1999

President's Statement on Texas Tragedy and East Timor

1:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Before I depart for the FEMA Operations Center, I'd liketo say just a few words about East Timor and the terrible murders in Texas lastnight.

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

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

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

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

Our fundamental values are also at stake in East Timor. Theelection on August 30th was conducted fairly, under theleadership of the U.N., with the agreement of the Indonesiangovernment. It produced a clear mandate for independence. Theviolence since is abhorrent to all of us who care about humandignity and democracy.

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

Last night, in the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth,during a prayer service for teenagers, a gunman killed sevenworshippers, wounded seven others and killed himself. Yet,again, we have seen a sanctuary violated by gun violence, takingchildren brimming with faith and promise and hope before theirtime. Our nation's support and prayers are with the families ofthe victims, those still suffering in the hospital, and theentire Fort Worth community.

Federal law enforcement officials are now working with stateofficials and local authorities to find all the answers. But weknow we have to redouble our efforts to protect our children. Weknow we have to act as if it were our own children being targetedby gun violence.

We know that there is nothing we can do to assure that thiswill never happen, but there is a lot more we can do to assurethat it will happen more rarely. And I can only hope that theshock of this event will spur that kind of action.

Thank you very much.

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


Q Mr. President, on executive privilege, now that you'veasserted that, would you voluntarily release documents?

END 1:47 P.M. EDT

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