UN extends East Timor mission

Diplomats agree in principle to extend mandate of security mission by a year.

    East Timor said a premature UN withdrawal could necessitate greater reinvestment later [EPA]

    In the wake of an assassination attempt on the country's president earlier this month, he said the security environment remained "fragile and volatile", adding that the country will need UN support until the next elections, due to be held in 2012. 


    "We'd hope that it [the extension] will not just be one year but it will be renewed for another … three or four years."


    'Continued presence'
    East Timor

    Former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975


    Voted for autonomy in 1999 in UN-brokered polls


    Ensuing violence left more than 1,500 dead


    Declared independence in 2002 after three years of UN administration


    Riots flared in 2006 after hundreds of soldiers rebelled over alleged discrimination, leaving 37 people dead and over 150,000 displaced


    UN-backed stabilisation force includes more than 2,500 Australian and New Zealand troops and UN police

    Earlier Santos told the security council that while East Timorese differed in their political views, "we are united in our recognition of the invaluable contribution of the United Nations and the need for its continued and sustained presence in the country".
    "A premature withdrawal by the United Nations could result in a need for a greater reinvestment in the future," he said.
    He said UN support until the next elections "would provide long time stability and sufficient time to consolidate our public institutions, particularly the police and the defence force".
    Santos addressed the council 10 days after rebels shot and critically injured Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's president, outside his home.
    His guards killed wanted rebel leader Alfredo Reinado during the attack while Ramos-Horta himself is recovering after undergoing surgery in an Australian hospital.
    Xanana Gusmao, East Timor's prime minister, was also shot at in a separate attack on the same day, but escaped unhurt.

    Ramos-Horta was shot and wounded in the
    attack on his home on February 11 [EPA]

    Senior officials, including Taur Matan Ruak, East Timor's army chief, have demanded an explanation on how the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force and some 1,700 UN police failed to prevent the attackers from reaching their two targets.
    Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN peacekeeping chief, told the council he was pleased to report that since the attacks, "the security situation has remained calm ... [and] there have been no further significant security incidents".
    "What some feared might have deteriorated into a destabilising crisis did not transpire, with the institutions of the state and citizens showing strong resilience," Guehenno said.

    Displaced persons


    But he warned that the country would remain unstable until political differences and challenges left over from the fledgling country's fight for independence are resolved.


    The country must address the crisis caused by some 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDP), he said.


    "The IDP situation is a political and security concern as well as a humanitarian one, and largely considered as neither short-term, nor easily fixed," he said.


    The country also faces challenges from former soldiers and fighters loyal to Reinado, he said.


    "The fact that Timor Leste came so close to a real breakdown shows how important and urgent it is to address a number of issues - the remaining Reinado supporters who are under arrest warrants, the petitioners, the IDPs.


    "These pressing issues have been unresolved since the crisis of 2006."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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