Subject: UN Takes Over Policing in East Timor [+Canberra-Solomons Showdown]

also: Australian PM set for Solomons showdown over envoy

Agence France-Presse September 13, 2006

UN Takes Over Policing in East Timor

International police deployed to East Timor in the wake of unrest in May have formally handed over their authority to the United Nations during a ceremony in the capital.

Some 554 police now fall under the control of the new UN mission in East Timor which was set up by the Security Council last month, according to a mission spokeswoman.

Diplomats from Australia, Malaysia and Portugal symbolically placed blue berets on the heads of representatives of their respective police forces serving in the tiny nation at the ceremony attended by about 100 officials.

"You have a double responsibility and priority: to serve the community and to serve your respective countries," Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta told the gathering.

Ramos-Horta praised the "outstanding" job done by the foreign police force so far in East Timor, which was plunged into months of political uncertainty after violence among military and police factions left some 21 people dead in May.

UNMIT, which has an initial six-month mandate, is tasked with assisting in elections due next year as well as strengthening the East Timorese police and justice system.

Some 1,608 police officers and 34 military liaison officers are to be part of the mission.

The original violence, which saw an estimated 150,000 people in the nation of one million flee their homes in fear for their lives, was triggered by the dismissal of 600 deserting soldiers.

Most of the refugees remain in camps, lacking confidence in the security situation.

One of the world's youngest and poorest countries, East Timor became independent in 2002 after voting in 1999 to end 24 years of Indonesian rule.

It was administered by the United Nations during the interim period, which quickly scaled down its operations after independence.

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Agence France-Presse September 13, 2006

Australian PM set for Solomons showdown over envoy

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he refuses to accept the expulsion of Canberra's envoy from the Solomon Islands, setting the stage for a diplomatic showdown with the tiny nation.

Howard was speaking as a top Australian envoy headed to the Solomons to protest the expulsion of ambassador Patrick Cole after tensions between the two countries flared into a serious rift.

"We don't accept for a moment the expulsion of our high commissioner Patrick Cole," Howard told national radio.

"He was doing the right thing, he was representing the interests of Australia, he was concerned about corruption in the Solomon Islands."

Howard indicated the dispute could affect an Australian police mission to help with law and order on the impoverished island.

"There is a big issue at stake here and we've put a lot of resources and ... we have a lot of police there," Howard said.

Foreign affairs department deputy secretary David Ritchie was due to meet Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in the capital Honiara to ram home Australia's strong objections to the expulsion.

Sogavare reportedly told Howard that Cole would be expelled in retaliation for Canberra's opposition to a Solomons inquiry into rioting in April and also accused Cole of meddling in internal politics.

In a statement released in Honiara, Sogavare's government confirmed he had demanded Cole's immediate recall and then declared him persona non grata, denying him recognition as a diplomat, but declined to provide further details.

"Mr Sogavare told John Howard despite this course of action it was his sincere hope that the two governments would continue to maintain and further strengthen the cordial relations between the two countries and peoples," the statement said.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the government-appointed inquiry could be used to shift blame for the unrest onto Australian police who form part of a regional force first deployed to end civil unrest in July 2003.

The force was boosted in April after riots trashed Honiara and led to the resignation of Sogavare's predecessor Snyder Rini.

The riots were sparked by Rini's election by fellow legislators after he was accused of receiving money from local Chinese businessmen and from Taiwan to bribe fellow legislators for support.

But when Sogavare took power, he appointed two allies accused of inciting the riots to his cabinet while they were still behind bars. Downer said he also fears the inquiry into the rioting could damage the case against the two men.

"(This), in our judgment, cuts across legal processes," Downer said.

He said the expulsion was "an outrageous thing to do and it's an extremely unprofessional thing to have done".

"I think most people in Solomon Islands will see it for what it is, which is a very personalised attack for no good reason," he said, adding that much of the problem stemmed from corruption which he said is rife in the Solomons.

Australian opposition spokesman for the Pacific islands, Bob Sercombe, said the incident was rare and pointed to serious problems in bilateral ties.

"It suggests a diplomatic relationship that is in very serious disrepair," he said, also criticising Canberra's intelligence gathering in the troubled country that gave Australia no warning that riots were brewing in April.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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