Subject: AFP: ETimor police on duty 'next week'

AFP

ETimor police on duty 'next week'

From correspondents in Dili

September 20, 2006

EAST Timor's police force will return to work from next week after being stood down in the wake of violence earlier this year, Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said today.

"The reactivation of the East Timor police force will take place next week but they will not be involved in hunting down other members of the PNTL (East Timor's national police)," Mr Ramos-Horta said.

Police were relieved of their duties when international peacekeepers were dispatched to the half-island nation in May to restore peace following bloody street battles involving military and police factions.

They rebelled after some 600 deserting soldiers were sacked. Gangs also joined in the violence, which left at least 21 people dead. Some police and soldiers remain on the run.

UN Police Commissioner Antero Lopes has said that a comprehensive screening program would allow East Timorese officers to work alongside UN police.

Sporadic gang violence has continued to plague the capital.

Australia warned in a travel advisory last weekend that East Timor could face an upsurge in anti-government protests and civil unrest this week and next. Mr Ramos-Horta said the advisory was "normal" and did not elaborate.

In a separate statement issued by his office, MR Ramos-Horta, who took over as premier when Mari Alkatiri stepped down over the crisis, repeated that he would be willing to resign if asked by President Xanana Gusmao.

"If you want changes, work for the elections in 2007," he said. "If there are people who are too anxious, who cannot wait, go ahead have the prime ministership."

Fugitive rebel military officer Alfredo Reinado, who escaped from jail where he was facing charges of illegal weapons possession after involvement in the unrest, has complained about the leadership of the Nobel peace laureate.


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