Subject: LUSA: Over-hasty UN pullout could have caused turmoil, says Kofi Annan

East Timor: Over-hasty UN pullout could have caused turmoil, says Kofi Annan

Washington, May 31 (Lusa) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that East Timor's plunge into violent turmoil could have been caused by the premature withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces from the newly independent nation in 2005.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Annan described the situation in Timor as "sad and tragic", adding that his special envoy to conflict-wracked Timor has "hit the ground running" after being urgently dispatched to Dili last week.

Annan sent British diplomat Ian Martin, currently head of the UN's Nepal mission, to assess the situation in Timor and coordinate negotiations to defuse Dili`s month-long wave of deadly violence.

Martin is a Timor veteran after overseeing the new nation's vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The pullout of the UNMISET mission in May 2005 from Timor could have created conditions for the current turmoil in Timor, hinted Annan.

"There has been a sense that we tend to leave conflict areas too soonÓ and that when we get into these situations we should be in for the long haul and take a long-term rather than short-term view believing that we can leave after elections".

Annan said that other factors contributing to Timor's slide into communal violence and orgy of destruction and looting in the streets of Dili had been "some misunderstanding as to who is responsible for what and contradictory instructions being given to the armed forces".

He expressed hope that the arrival of over 2,000 international peacekeepers from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal would help to restore law and order in Timor.

President Gusmão's declaration of a state of emergency and call for cabinet rejig, including the firing of Dili's interior and defense ministers, could also help to calm the situation in Timor, said Annan.

JP/CJB.

Lusa


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