Subject: LUSA: Martial arts groups pledge to end violent clashes with rivals

East Timor: Martial arts groups pledge to end violent clashes with rivals

Dili, June 30 (Lusa) - Leaders of martial arts groups in East Timor that have fought deadly clashes in the last year signed an accord Thursday to seek dialogue rather than violence to resolve future disputes.

A joint declaration was signed by the leaders of 10 of the 14 martial arts groups invited by President Xanana Gusmão to renounce violence against members of other gangs.

The accord replaces an earlier verbal agreement between the groups and the government that was hastily drawn up in the months following Timor's independence in 2002.

Two separate clashes between rival martial arts gangs in 2004 left at least five people dead, including a police commander.

In comments to Lusa after the declaration`s signing ceremony, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said he hoped the new anti-violence pledge would be adhered to by the groups.

"It`s the start of a process that will contribute to altering mentalities. They have taken on a commitment and this is important", said the Timorese leader, who suggested that the violent behavior of the gangs was a result of Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of Timor.

The accord with Timor's martial arts groups, who combine elements of kung fu, karate and taekwondo, results from negotiations started at the end of 2004 by President Gusmão.

Under the agreement, witnessed by Dili-based international diplomats and the UN's senior official in Timor, the Forum for Communication of Martial Arts Groups in Timor (FOKAMTIL) has been set up.



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