Subject: Lusa: End of UN mission could spark renewed conflict - Bishop Belo

East Timor: End of UN mission could spark renewed conflict - Bishop Belo

Macau, April 2 (Lusa) - East Timor's spiritual leader, Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, says the newly independent nation risks renewed conflict once United Nations peacekeepers withdraw.

The end of the UN mission could lead dissident "armed forces" to descend from the mountains and trigger "a struggle for power" in the cities, Bishop Belo told a conference in Macau Thursday.

"It will be a very complicated phase for East Timor in the political, military and social aspects", he said, adding he prayed to God for President Xanana Gusmão "to have the capacity to calm the situation" and for the Timorese "to remain united in the preservation of peace".

The UN Security Council is expected to announce in early May the format and composition of an extended, but heavily reduced, mission for East Timor.

The mandate of the current UNMISET mission, which includes 1,750 peacekeepers, among whom a Portuguese battalion, is set to end May 20, the second anniversary of the country's independence following 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

In a related development, Polish Foreign Minister Wlodimierz Cimoszewics said Thursday, after meeting his Timorese counterpart, José Ramos Horta in Warsaw, that his government was ready to participate in an extended UN mission.

JCS/MDR/SAS Lusa


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