Subject: AP: Dozens Wounded in East Timor Clashes

Also Australia's Army chief optimistic about security in East Timor

Dozens Wounded in East Timor Clashes

By GUIDO GOULART Associated Press Writer

August 26, 2006, 3:13 PM EDT

DILI, East Timor -- Fresh fighting between rival gangs left dozens of people wounded in East Timor on Saturday, authorities said, and the government hailed a U.N. Security Council decision to authorize 1,600 international police to help restore stability.

Gangs clashed in the village of Wailili, some 143 miles east of the capital of Dili, leaving at least 25 homes on fire and scores of people wounded, police said.

Local police chief Pedro Belo said Timorese police and military personnel have taken control of the situation and arrested dozens of suspects in the violence.

The fighting came a day after the U.N. Security Council authorized a new mission of international police and military liaison officers to help the government stabilize the country ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2007.

Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said the people of East Timor were "very pleased" with the move.

"It seems that the U.N. never forgets East Timor and our suffering," he told The Associated Press.

A U.N. political mission in East Timor had been scheduled to shut down on May 20 this year. But violence erupted in May after then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri fired about 600 soldiers. The firings came after clashes between rival security forces in the capital later spilled into gang warfare, looting and arson.

The violence left 30 people dead and nearly 150,000 fled their homes. The violence was the worst to hit the country of less than one million people since its 1999 vote for independence after 24 years of Indonesian rule.

Sporadic gang fights have persisted and tens of thousands of people are afraid to return home or are unable to because their houses were destroyed.

East Timor's government on Wednesday authorized a plan to reorganize its police force. With the deployment of the international police force, it hopes to completely restore security in Dili within one or two months.


Radio Australia

Last Updated 27/08/2006, 12:13:30

Australia's Army chief optimistic about security in East Timor

The Head of Australia's Army Lieutenant General Peter Leahy says he's confident that security is returning to East Timor.

He was responsing to the news that the United Nations has approved the deployment of an international police force to the country and that Australian troops will remain in place.

He says, "It means that the sum total of security and the police and other UN agencies will be able to build a secure and stable future for East Timor."

"The police and the UN agencies will concentrate on the government, they'll concentrate on the police and those aspects of government life and the people."

The General says "We'll be there as a security force.We hope to be able to take a back step and move away and not be as prominent on the streets because with 16-hundred police they should be able to cope with most of that."

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