Subject: AP: UN condemns attacks on East Timorese Muslim minority

U.N. condemns attacks on East Timorese Muslim minority By DANIEL COONEY


DILI, East Timor (AP) - East Timor 's U.N. administrators on Thursday strongly condemned a series of attacks on the half island nation's small Muslim community.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N.'s chief representative in the newly independent territory, said East Timor 's 265-strong Muslim community was being forced to "live in a ghetto" due to weeks of stone throwing and intimidation by the Catholic majority.

He said the attacks must be stopped immediately.

"We have reinforced the protection around the Mosque compound," De Mello said in an interview.

Renewed violence would be a bitter blow for the territory as it struggles to rebuild after last year's wave of murder and destruction that erupted following an overwhelming vote to break away from Indonesia.

Outside Dili's only Muslim place of worship, An-Nur mosque, several heavily armed U.N. peacekeepers stood guard as an American-made Humvee armored vehicle cruised around the block looking for troublemakers.

"I'm scared to talk about the violence as it will only get worse," said Muslim community leader, Tarikhat Al Mufarridiyyah. "All day and night the Catholics in the neighborhood throw stones at us and the mosque."

He said many East Timorese accuse them of siding with pro-Jakarta militias, responsible for the much of the violence last year. "Many people still see us as citizens of Indonesia, but our hearts are in East Timor ."

Tarikhat criticized East Timor 's U.N. administrators, accusing them of turning their backs on the violence and intimidation.

"The U.N. is doing very little to help us," he said. "There are so many bosses and leaders in the U.N. here, but nothing happens."

But De Mello rejected the criticism, saying the conflict would soon be resolved. "I am confident that we can rebuild trust between the very small Muslim community and the East Timorese population."

U.N. human rights worker Sidney Jones said the attacks were motivated more by political differences that religious ones. She said nearly all of East Timor 's Muslims had migrated from other parts of Indonesia less than 10 years ago and were regarded by many East Timorese as still being of Indonesian nationality.

But she said that "legally there's no question that these people have a right to stay."

East Timor 's independence leader Jose "Xanana" Gusmao recently condemned the attacks, urging his followers to accept the Muslims and allow them to become a part of East Timorese society.

In February, Dili's Islamic cleric spoke on U.N.-sponsored public radio, calling for religious tolerance.

Portuguese peacekeepers tasked with protecting the mosque from attack, said there was real animosity in the community towards the Muslims.

"Throwing stones at the mosque is normal, that goes on all day," said Corp. Marco Correia. "I just hope things don't escalate even further."

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