Subject: LUSA: Future UN mission should be mainly police force - US official

03-08-2006 11:05:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8226103 Temas:

East Timor: Future UN mission should be mainly police force - US official

Dili, Aug. 3 (Lusa) - Restoring security and order to East Timor, shaken by months of violence, was "clearly more the work" of international police than military forces, a senior US official said Thursday.

Christopher Hill, the US assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Washington backed the idea that the UN should deploy a peacekeeping force primarily consisting of police, rather than military personnel.

In a related development, Australia, which has supplied the largest number of peacekeepers since May under bilateral agreements with Dili, announced Thursday it had begun gradually withdrawing some of its troops.

Hill, who held talks with Dili's senior leadership, ended a one- day trip to East Timor, saying resolution of the country's crisis was "clearly more the work of a police nature than of a military nature".

Despite expectations the UN will deploy a police and military force later this month, Hill said it was "important not to think of this as an international problem", but rather as "an internal problem of East Timor".

Newly installed Prime Minister José Ramos Horta has asked the UN Security Council to approve an 800-strong police force, backed by a military component, for a mission lasting at least two years.

Bloody clashes between rival Timorese security force factions in late April and May sparked communal violence, leaving nearly 40 dead and displacing more than 130,000.

The crisis led to the dispatch of nearly 3,000 international peacekeepers, including Portuguese police, and the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on June 26.

With the security situation improved, Hill, the most senior US official to visit since East Timor gained independence in 2002, said the most important immediate task was to create conditions for the return home of the displaced.

Asked by journalists who was to blame for the crisis, Hill said blame could be attributed on "many sides" but that the "crucial" issue was to get the displaced out of improvised camps "in the next month or two".

In Canberra, the Australian Defense Ministry said Thursday it had begun withdrawing its troops from Dili and that the operation would continue under careful monitoring of the security situation and without a set timetable.

A naval transport ship and three Blackhawk helicopters had been pulled out in the past 10 day, a ministry communiqué said, adding that an infantry company, 23 armored cars and some headquarters staff would follow over "the next few weeks".

In response to Dili's appeal, Canberra deployed a 3,000-strong, mainly military, force in East Timor and support bases in northern Australia in late May.

Portugal, New Zealand and Malaysia dispatched several hundred police.

Both Portugal and Australia have said they would contribute to a future UN-mandated peacekeeping force.

SAS/EL.

Lusa

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