UN starts new East Timor mission

The United Nations has established a new mission in East Timor but left Australian-led troops in place following a dispute over whether they should remain independent or be part of a UN force.

    Australian troops will stay in East Timor

    The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously approved a Japanese-drafted resolution creating the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, known as UNMIT, for at least six months. That operation would include 1,608 police and up to 35 military liaison officers, but no troops.

    Australia sent troops and police to East Timor after a wave of looting and arson attacks erupted in May. The violence occurred after Mari Alkatiri, the then-prime minister, dismissed 600 soldiers in an army of 1,400 when they protested over suspected discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.
       
    Friday's resolution did not settle a dispute over whether Australian-led troops should be part of the UN operation. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, is to review arrangements by October 25, thereby leaving the multinational force in place until at least then, according to the resolution.

    East Timor has asked for a UN peacekeeping force and Annan recommended 2,000 UN troops earlier this month.

    Independent force

    The United States, Britain and Japan, who would carry a large part of the cost, have opposed abolishing the independent force, especially since Australia has volunteered to pay for its own troops.
      
    Australia has some 1,500 troops and 200 police in the force of some 2,300, which includes contingents from Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal. Some of the police contingents are expected to be moved to the new UN mission.
      
    Malaysia and Portugal also prefer the force to be under UN control and France, Argentina, Russia and China, among other members, have agreed.

    In May, the Security Council shut down the remainder of the UN force, leaving a political mission in the country before reconsidering how to bolster the force again.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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