Subject: LUSA: Lack of UN peacekeepers worries Dili's political, military leaders

Also Australia Min: East Timor Will Survive Without UN Next Year

East Timor: Lack of UN peacekeepers worries Dili's political, military leaders

Dili, May 19 (Lusa) - East Timor's political and military leaders unanimously criticized Thursday the UN Security Council's decision to ignore Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation that the new, pruned-back UN mission include a symbolic peacekeeping force.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri told Lusa it was "fortunate" for Dili that the UN was maintaining for one more year a "political mission" in the country.

Alkatiri noted, however, that the Security Council's axing of a peacekeeping component in the new UNOTIL mission, which assumes it mandate Friday, would oblige his cash-strapped administration to make additional investments in its fledgling defense structures.

Annan, who had recommended that UNOTIL include a 144-strong peacekeeping unit, told the Security Council that Dili had advised it was unable to assure security for UN and other international personnel.

In comments to Lusa, Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta, pointing his finger at Washington, described the council's decision earlier this week as a short-sighted option to save "some more money".

"Fundamentally", Ramos Horta said, the council overrode Annan's recommendation at the insistence of those, "particularly" the United States, who wanted to "save the maximum in order to transfer savings to other concerns, such as Iraq and Afghanistan".

The chief of staff of Dili's fledgling Defense Force, Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, echoed the preoccupations of the country's political leaders, telling Lusa the Security Council appeared to have "no notion of what it's like to have a (UN) mission in East Timor without support" of peacekeepers.

"These people", the Security Council, Gen. Matan Ruak said, "will have to assume the responsibility for that which will arise later".

Annan had warned the council that an extended UN mission without a peacekeeping component would have a "negative impact" on East Timor's security and in other key areas.




Australia Min: East Timor Will Survive Without UN Next Year

CANBERRA, May 20 (AP)--East Timor will be able survive without U.N. peacekeepers, Australia's foreign minister said Friday, marking the third anniversary of the country's bloody succession from Indonesia .

Australia, which led the United Nations military force that brought peace after its bloody independence ballot in 1999, will maintain a small staff of advisers with the U.N. mission for the next 12 months, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

Despite a stagnant economy, high unemployment and growing public unrest against the East Timorese government, Downer predicted the U.N. will be able to completely withdraw next May.

The East Timorese will "find appropriate ways to manage differences of points of view and that obviously takes time for the country to find the best way to handle those issues," Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Australia has yet to determine what role it will take in East Timor after the U.N. departs, he said.

"That's obviously got to be worked out with the United Nations, but I'm certain they'll be keen to have Australians continue to be involved and we're very keen to continue to be involved and to play our part," he said.

The last of the U.N. peacekeepers were to head home Friday, but spurred by concerns about East Timor's stability, the Security Council delayed a full pullout in favor of reducing staff from 900 to about 275 military, police and government advisers.

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