Subject: LUSA: Allies deploying peacekeepers after new outbreak of violence

24-05-2006 14:36:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8018978 Temas:

East Timor: Allies deploying peacekeepers after new outbreak of violence

Dili, May 24 (Lusa) - East Timor's allies began mobilizing peacekeeping forces Wednesday in response to Dili's appeal for help following a series of blitz attacks over two days by dissident soldiers around the capital that left four dead and nine wounded.

President Xanana Gusmão appealed for international military and police forces in a meeting with foreign diplomats in Dili.

Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been informed of the worsening security situation and asked for UN approval of an international emergency force.

Australia and New Zealand confirmed they were dispatching advance forces that could be in place in Dili within 24 hours.

Portugal announced it would send paramilitary GNR police and Malaysia was also asked for police forces.

Dili has said it hopes for an international force of about 1,000 soldiers and police.

There were no reports of violence in East Timor's interior.

Late Wednesday Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said the situation wsa "under control" around the capital but that international forces were needed "fundamentally" to reassure panicky civilians and help "restore stability and confidence".

"Those who began the violence will be caught", Alkatiri said adding that army dissidents who had not resorted to violence would find a "climate of dialogue" from the government.

One policeman was killed in fighting Wednesday, bringing the two- day casualty total to four dead and nine wounded, all but one loyalists, according to the government.

In blitz attacks beginning early Wednesday, dissidents attacked the army headquaters, the home of armed forces chief Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak and other points on Dili's outskirts.

Witnesses said the attack against the army headquarters about 50 men and Alkatiri later said the band appeared to be armed with 10 automatic weapons.

As Dili's population began their second exodus in less than a month in search of refuge in nearby mountains, Australia and the United States ordered all their non-essential personnel to leave East Timor.

Portugal, with some 450 mostly aid-worker expatriates in the country, said an evacuation of its nationals was "still not justified" but that a contingency plan was in place.

In a telephone contact, the presumed rebel leader, Maj. Alfredo Reinado, told Lusa his force was about one hour's distance from Dili and that he was ready to "shake the hands" of arriving peacekeepers and "make peace" under conditions set by President Gusmão.

Acknowledging his men had suffered two dead and three wounded since Tuesday, he claimed his forces had killed 11 government soldiers, a fact he alleged the authorities were "hiding" to avoid "humiliation".

Maj. Alfredo, the former commander of the Military Police, deserted on May 3 in protest over the government's having ordered troops into Dili's to put down rioting April 28-29.

Those clashes, pitting sacked soldiers and against troops and police, left five dead, 80 injured and more than 150 houses and shops destroyed or damaged by arsonists.

According to UN officials, more than 70% of Dili's 120,000 people fled the city in the wake of the April violence.

East Timor's worst crisis since gaining independence in 2002 began in February when some 600 soldiers - about 40% of the fledgling army - began protests and deserted barracks over alleged regional discrimination in the military.



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