Subject: AP: U.N. envoy says East Timor faces 'challenging' parliamentary elections

U.N. envoy says East Timor faces 'challenging' parliamentary elections

The Associated Press

Published: June 1, 2007

UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. representative in East Timor praised the young nation's recent presidential elections but warned that the upcoming parliamentary vote would be "more challenging."

Atul Khare, who heads the United Nations mission in the troubled country, called the votes in April and May that elected Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta as the country's second president "deeply satisfying."

"In fact, I think they went much better than what any one of us could have expected about six months ago," he said Friday.

"The parliament elections ... are going to be more challenging," he added, noting that 14 groups are competing for seats in the 65-member assembly

East Timor, a tiny nation which broke from Indonesia in 1999 after 24 years of occupation, was plunged into crisis last April and May when factional fighting broke out between police and army forces. The clashes spilled onto the streets, where looting, arson and gang warfare left at least 37 dead and sent 155,000 people fleeing their homes.

The Fretilin party was in power when violence erupted last year, and in mid-May, Ramos-Horta defeated the head of Fretilin, Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, in the presidential elections.

Khare said he was hopeful that recent calls by major political leaders denouncing violence would ensure peaceful parliamentary elections. He noted that though there are continued reports of violence, the incidents are generally "isolated."

"The biggest challenge will be in fact immediately ... after the parliament election, the process of government formation," he said.

"I hope that whatever will be the results, the results will be both acceptable and, indeed, accepted by the population at large so that the country can move forward," he said.

Khare also addressed accusations of sexual abuse that have been leveled at U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor.

He said of the four cases reported to his office, two had been investigated and dismissed. Two are still pending.

Khare emphasized that he maintains a "zero tolerance" policy on misconduct and has repatriated two peacekeepers, one for losing his weapon, and accepted the resignation of a third who admitted to driving drunk.

"We are here to help a country heal from a trauma and not to perpetuate a trauma," he said.


Zakki Hakim contributed to this report from Dili, East Timor.

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