Subject: Age: Gusmao Urges UN To Lower West Timor's Danger Rating

The Age (Melbourne) November 5, 2002

Gusmao Urges UN To Lower West Timor's Danger Rating

By Jill Jolliffe

Atambua, West Timor -- East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has called on the United Nations to lower its security rating for West Timor, which is now at a higher stage of alert than Afghanistan or Bali.

"I appeal to the UN to review the security level," he said at a news conference. "It is really needed."

The former guerrilla commander was on a four-day tour of West Timor, where he worked with local authorities to bring home around 30,000 refugees - including former militiamen who are seen by both sides as a potential source of destabilisation for his new nation.

The Indonesian half of the island was placed on a Phase 5 level of alert when three employees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were murdered by militia gangs in Atambua in September, 2000. It has not been altered since and means that UN organisations are forbidden to work here without extraordinary security measures.

The scale of 0-5 is determined by UNSECORD, the security body for the UN. Under the system, Phase 1 means UN staff should exercise care in a zone, while Phase 4 indicates that only essential staff with security clearances can work there. Phase 5 bans UN staff from working at all.

Bali was reclassified from Phase 0 to Phase 1 after last month's bombings, while Afghanistan is on Phase 4.

Kristio Wahyono, the head of Indonesia's diplomatic mission in Dili who is travelling with the President, said he was delighted with Mr Gusmao's stand. "Its very important for us," he said.

West Timor Governor Piet Tallo also welcomed it as a move that strengthened ties between the neighbouring territories.

Mr Robert Ashe of UNHCR said that West Timor was feeling the impact of the security ban. "UN agencies like UNICEF and WHO want to return to do development programs, but they can't," he said, adding that embassy travel advisers echoed the rating. "Travellers think there are thousands of militias on the rampage - it's false," he said.

He said Indonesian authorities, police and military, had worked hard with the UN to improve the situation.


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