Subject: AFP: East Timor says it does not need international peacekeepers

East Timor says it does not need international peacekeepers

Fri May 12, 11:50 AM ET

DILI (AFP) - East Timor's foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta said his country does not need foreign peacekeepers, shortly after Australia said it had sent two warships close to Timorese waters.

The East Timorese capital Dili was rocked by a riot on April 28 sparked by the sacking of 600 soldiers. At least five people were killed and thousands fled the city in fear of further violence.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Friday that two warships were being deployed to northern Australian waters in case East Timor requested international troops to quell any upheaval.

"East Timor does not need a peacekeeping force, because there is no war in East Timor," Ramos-Horta told a press conference outside Dili's police training centre.

However Ramos-Horta said that additional international police advisors would be helpful in the tiny nation, which only gained independence in 2002 and is due to hold general elections next year.

"We need an international police to create stability," he said.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has already urged the United Nations todeploy an international police force in his country ahead of next years's elections.

The UN mission in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) is due to end on May 19, but has requested an extension of one-month.

Witnesses meanwhile said many of Dili's residents had returned to the city over the past few days.

But Ramos-Horta said that some people were waiting until after the three-day congress of the ruling party Fretilin, which begins next Wednesday, to come back.

Meanwhile Ramos-Horta's office said on Friday that the foreign minister had visited Aileu, 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Dili, to meet with 20 military policemen and four members of the military's Rapid Intervention Unit who suddenly quit the capital for Aileu following the riots.

Their departure -- with their weapons -- fuelled rumours of unrest between soldiers and military police.

The men said they had not deserted and "expressed their strong opposition to violence and pledged they will not be involved in any actions that would harm anyone, including the government," Ramos Horta's office said in a statement. Ramos-Horta said he would continue talks with the men, led by Major Alfredo Alves Reinaldo, who also said they were not linked to the deserting soldiers.

The statement also said the minister was in contact with Gastao Salsinha, the leader of the 600 sacked soldiers, who left their barracks complaining of ethnic discrimination in the ranks.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said this week that the riot as well as an attack on a government office outside Dili on Monday, in which one policeman was killed, were a continuing attempt to stage a coup.

The government has said it has made contact with nearly 400 of the sacked soldiers and offered to pay their wages until June.

Australia led a UN-backed intervention force to East Timor in 1999 to quell the violence by pro-Indonesian militias after the independence vote.

Back to May menu
April menu     
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu