Subject: AU: Fretilin violence claim dismissed as 'lies' by UN

The Australian (Australia)

August 14, 2007 Tuesday

Fretilin violence claim dismissed as 'lies' by UN

Stephen Fitzpatrick

WORLD; Pg. 10


A FURIOUS United Nations chief in East Timor has rejected as ''lies'' a claim by the former ruling Fretilin party that his staff was responsible for triggering recent violence, including an armed attack on a UN police convoy on Friday.

In a closed briefing in Dili yesterday, Indian diplomat Atul Khare told international security co-ordinators and embassy representatives that an offer by Fretilin to open a joint investigation into the past week of chaos was worthless.

Mr Khare is understood to have separately told Fretilin secretary-general Mari Alkatiri that he viewed the ambush on Friday as being ''well-timed and organised'' and that if the rebel party had any information on the matter, this should be quickly made available.

''No one other than the police and the prosecutor general has the authority to investigate, therefore I would suggest any information be shared with the police,'' Mr Khare is understood to have told the former prime minister, rejecting his offer to conduct a joint investigation.

However, Fretilin is dismissing as propaganda photographs showing its supporters, with Fretilin flags, at the scene of the attack. ''Anyone can use a party flag or symbol to commit an act of violence,'' spokesman Arsenio Bano said yesterday.

Mr Bano claimed the incident was the result of an ''extremely provocative and illegal action by UN police'' in ''destroying banners and flags of peaceful Fretilin supporters'' who then retaliated.

Fretilin is refusing to acknowledge the coalition Government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, insisting that as the single party with the most votes in recent national elections it should hold power. Fretilin gained 21 seats in the 65-seat assembly, well short of the absolute majority required to govern.

Mr Gusmao's Parliamentary Majority Alliance has 37 seats.

Fretilin says it has tried to discourage its followers from violent protest but insists on its right ''to demonstrate politically and peacefully against this illegitimate government''.

Fearing further violence, Mr Khare has stepped up security conditions for his staff across the country but has resisted formally escalating the security alert under the UN's operating rules from level two to level three.

He is understood to be trying to avoid the negative message such a move would send both within East Timor and internationally, but has in fact already engaged all of the key upgraded security conditions of the higher alert level. Staff movements have been severely restricted where not related to essential duties, non-essential staff has been relocated from Baucau, where last Friday's attack occurred, and across the country UN vehicles are not permitted on the road after 8pm without good reason.

UN vehicles are prohibited from using the road between Baucau and Viqueque in the country's far east, forcing agencies to fly aid supplies by helicopter from warehouses in the capital, Dili, to eastern centres.

The prohibition also means investigators have yet to visit the scene where the Toyota destroyed in the attack still sits.

They believe, however, that the ambush was ''a deliberate plan to snare a UN target'', one security source told The Australian.

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