Subject: RT: East Timor PM says jailbreak was preventable

Also BBC: E Timor PM hits out at jailbreak

East Timor PM says jailbreak was preventable

Fri Sep 1, 2006 8:03 AM BST

CANBERRA (Reuters) - East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta partly blamed Australia on Friday for the jailbreak of prisoners and rebel soldiers in Dili, saying Australian-led peacekeepers refused to increase security around the prison.

More than 50 prisoners walked out of the Becora jail on Wednesday, including rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado, renewing concerns about security in the fledgling nation.

The jailbreak prompted Ramos-Horta to question why Australian peacekeepers had not provided more security at the jail.

"I am personally just puzzled why in spite of our repeated requests for static forces to be outside the prison, this was not done," Ramos-Horta told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"Had there been strong security outside, this could have been prevented," he said.

But Australian Prime Minister John Howard rejected the suggestion and said the Australian peacekeepers in East Timor, led by Brigadier Michael Slater, had done nothing wrong, adding it was not their job to provide jail security.

"I understand that the attitude taken by Brigadier Slater has been that it's not the role of the military to provide static guards, it's the role of the military to provide patrols," Howard told reporters.

East Timor officials suggested on Thursday that New Zealand troops bore some responsibility, a claim Wellington rejected.

Reinado was one of the figureheads of a revolt that plunged the former Portuguese colony into chaos in May, prompting Australia to lead an international peacekeeping force to restore order in East Timor.

International troops and police continued their so far fruitless search for the escapees on Friday after Reinado said in a video recording that he did not want to stage a new revolt.

The prisoners walked out of the jail's front gate during visiting hours, security officials said.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will fly to Dili on Sunday for three-nation security talks with Ramos-Horta and East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

The United Nations agreed last week on a new mission to East Timor, comprising some 1,600 police, despite a dispute over whether Australian-led international troops already there should remain independent or be part of a U.N. force.

Downer said the implementation of the new U.N. mission would be discussed at the trilateral talks, to be held on Monday.

Dili suffered a series of protests that evolved into widespread violence in May after 600 members of East Timor's 1,400-strong army were sacked.

An estimated 100,000 people were displaced and at least 20 killed in the violence, which led to deployment of a 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force.

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BBC News

Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK []

E Timor PM hits out at jailbreak

The prime minister of East Timor has said that international peacekeepers are partly to blame for the escape of dozens of prisoners on Wednesday.

Jose Ramos-Horta said Australian-led troops had failed to increase security at the prison in the capital, Dili, despite repeated pleas from officials.

At least 56 men escaped from the jail, including rebel leader Alfredo Reinado.

The escape sparked fears of renewed tensions, in a country which is still recovering from recent violence.

More than 20 people died in street clashes in May, and thousands fled their homes.

International troops, most of whom are from Australia, are now stationed in the country to try to restore order.

'Puzzled'

Mr Ramos-Horta said the mass escape could have been prevented.

"I am personally just puzzled why, in spite of our repeated requests for static forces to be outside the prison, this was not done," he told Australian radio.

The head of the international forces, Brigadier Mick Slater, said the escape appeared to have been a "fairly simple matter", with prisoners walking out of the gates.

International troops and police are continuing to search for the escapees, but with no success so far.

Officials fear that the prisoners' escape could destabilise the country's fragile security situation.

Calm has largely been restored since the unrest in May, but there have been sporadic outbreaks of violence.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is flying to Dili on Sunday, for talks on the crisis with Mr Ramos-Horta and the Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

Mr Downer, who said on Thursday that the jailbreak was "a matter of very real concern" to the Australian government, will also discuss preparations for a new United Nations mission in the country to replace the current international force.

Last week, the UN Security Council agreed to send 1,500 police to the troubled country.


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