Subject: Horta wants UN to stay in E Timor


UN delays on Timor extension request


Horta wants UN to stay in E Timor

Lucy Williamson BBC News, Dili []

The United Nations should stay in East Timor until at least 2012, President Jose Ramos Horta has said.

He told the BBC there was still great potential instability and the country needed more time to organise its police and the economy.

Mr Ramos Horta was seriously injured in an assassination attempt in February.

An Australian-led peacekeeping force returned to East Timor in 2006 after outbreaks of political violence which paralysed the country.

Mr Ramos Horta said that peace in his country remained precarious and that he would like a UN presence in East Timor for at least the next five years.

He also said it was likely the country would need Australian-led forces to stay on into next year.

Fallen showcase

Mr Ramos Horta narrowly survived a shooting attack by rebel soldiers in February, and said now was not the time for East Timor to handle its security situation alone.

"I want to play safe. I don't want to, for sake of patriotism, pride, that we should ask sorry, now you can leave.

"We should be very cautious. That's why I have said to UN we need UN police here for at least 5 years - up to 2012."

He said the numbers and the mission could change, but that a UN force of some kind was needed "to give us the time and space to reorganise our defence force, our police force, to improve our economy, to reduce the social tensions arising from poverty and unemployment".

East Timor was seen as a showcase for UN peace-building when peacekeepers left in 2005.

But a year later, a spate of political violence brought them back, including a deployment of Australian-led troops.

Many people have criticised the UN for pulling out too soon in those early years - but Mr Ramos Horta said East Timor itself must accept some of that blame.

He said many people were anxious that the UN should leave.

"I remember in 2001, 2002, they were so impatient," he said.

"I was the lonely voice arguing for a five-year mission, way back in October or September '99 in New York.

"I was telling the then head of peacekeeping operations, the UN should be there for at least five years... But he told me, well, if you get two years from the Security Council, you'll be lucky."

The unwillingness of UN contributors to pay for long peacekeeping missions, said Mr Ramos Horta, is a major problem.

Committing to a country like East Timor for several years - rather than in six or 12-month cycles - he said, would mean big improvements.


The Australian

UN delays on Timor extension request+

Paul Toohey | May 14, 2008

THE UN will wait until February to consider whether it will continue its peacekeeping mission in East Timor, despite President Jose Ramos Horta asking it to commit until at least 2012.

Mr Ramos Horta, still recovering from being shot in February, views his country as volatile despite the apparent calm following the surrender of rebels a fortnight ago.

"I want to play safe," Mr Ramos Horta told the BBC yesterday. "I don't want to, for sake of patriotism, pride, that we should ask, sorry, now you can leave. We should be very cautious. That's why I have said to the UN we need UN police here for at least five years -- up to 2012."

UN spokeswoman Allison Cooper said her organisation had to consider the President's request "in the context of peacekeeping commitments globally".

"We currently have a mandate though to February 2009," Ms Cooper said. "We had a 12-month extension in February this year. We will have to report back to the Security Council in February next year and provide a report of progress and they will consider and vote on it. They will decide whether to trim back or reduce the mandate in certain areas, based upon our recommendations."

The UN has a mandated strength of 1748 police officers for East Timor, with 1500 in the country at any time. They come from 41 countries and 50 are Australians. They also have 438 international staff, 933 national staff and 134 volunteers.

"The peacekeepers here are police, with no military component, unlike the UN's military component in Dafur," Ms Cooper said.

"The Security Council will listen to the mission and take into account requests from the President. They will hear what Jose Ramos Horta has said."

Australia has 750 troops in East Timor as part of its International Stabilisation Force, though that was lifted by 200 immediately after Mr Ramos Horta was shot. In late April, those extra troops returned home once the country was deemed secure.

Mr Ramos Horta also told the BBC he wanted the Australians to stay until at least next year, though that is a commitment Kevin Rudd appeared to give on his visit to Dili in the days after the President was shot.

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