Subject: AFP: UN condemns ETimor violence as more than 70 arrested

Agence France Presse

August 8, 2007

UN condemns ETimor violence as more than 70 arrested

DILI, Aug 8 2007

The top UN official in East Timor condemned on Wednesday violence in the tiny nation that has injured at least eight and led to more than 70 arrests since Xanana Gusmao was named prime minister.

The unrest hit in Dili and the eastern towns of Baucau and Viqueque after President Jose Ramos-Horta announced a coalition headed by Gusmao's party would form government following inconclusive June elections.

At least seven buildings were torched in Baucau, including three government facilities, three aid organisations and a court, while seven houses were burned in Viqueque town, the UN mission here said in a statement.

More than 220 tear gas shells along with rubber bullets have been fired by UN police, international forces and East Timorese police to contain the mayhem and disperse rampaging groups, the mission said.

"I strongly condemn this violence that is regrettably being committed by people who claim an allegiance to Fretilin," the UN's top official here, Atul Khare, said in the statement.

"It is essential that the message of non-violence be communicated strongly and repeatedly until it is respected by all," he said, referring to a pledge by ex-Fretilin prime minister Mari Alkatiri to rein in supporters running amok.

The UN said that elsewhere in the country the situation remained "volatile but under control, with isolated and sporadic incidents of violence being reported."

Former ruling party Fretilin has branded the new government illegal and has said it will appeal its formation through East Timor's courts.

Fretilin won 21 seats in the 65-seat parliament, an insufficient number to form a government alone. Gusmao's party won just 18 but pieced together a coalition holding 37 positions in parliament.

Baucau's police commander Pedro Belo told AFP by telephone that more than 50 people have been arrested in Baucau in connection with the violence, triggered by Gusmao's appointment.

"The situation is now under the control of security forces but there are still minor incidents taking place in the subdistricts of Quelikai and Venilale," Belo said.

The UN said separately that 29 people had been arrested in Dili in the past day, while 25 UN vehicles were damaged.

Four UN police have been injured, with one to be airlifted to Australia's Darwin for treatment on Wednesday evening, it said.

A worker at Dili's main hospital said four civilians had been treated there for injuries.

East Timor has a high proportion of young people in its population of one million and an unemployment rate running at around 50 percent, making it potentially volatile.


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