Subject: AP: East Timor says credible elections are key to reconciliation

Associated Press Worldstream

September 27, 2006 Wednesday 5:01 PM GMT

East Timor says credible elections are key to reconciliation

By PAUL ALEXANDER, Associated Press Writer


East Timor needs fair elections, reconciliation and a big injection of international aid to overcome the recent violence that battered the fledgling nation, Foreign Minister Jose Luis Guterres said Wednesday.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Guterres bemoaned the fighting between rival factions of the armed forces, which gave way to gang warfare, arson and looting, as the consequence of an inexperienced government feeling its way along the path of democracy.

"As a post-conflict country, we have recently experienced a relapse of violence, due to institutional failures of our defense and police force, high-level unemployment and wrong political decisions that we took as leaders of a new country," Guterres said.

Then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri dismissed 591 soldiers from the 1,400-member army in March after they waged a strike for months to protest alleged discrimination in the military.

Guterres said nearly 100 people were killed and almost 150,000 others were driven from their homes in fighting that followed the dismissal, but eased with the arrival of thousands of international peacekeepers and the installation of a new government headed by Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta.

The foreign minister said East Timor welcomes an international commission of inquiry "to study the events surrounding the crisis and the allegations of human rights abuses."

A major U.N.-led international presence will be needed for the foreseeable future to keep the peace and organize and supervise the country's first legislative and presidential elections next year, Guterres said.

"A free, transparent and fair election will definitely pave the way for a stable political and social environment," he said.

Also crucial are fostering reconciliation, investigating the causes of the violence and pumping in development funds to create jobs, both in towns and the rural countryside, Guterres said.

"The government is fully aware that reconciliation and justice need to be hand in hand with development," he said.

The national budget has been increased by 122 percent this fiscal year, focusing on job creation, he said, calling it "a pro-poor budget."

"We hope that this new economic policy, combined with policies of reconciliation and dialogue will help defuse the tension and will bring common understanding and will reinvigorate the trust and confidence in our common and shared future," Guterres said.

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