Subject: AFP: Horta urges more Portuguese police

Horta urges more Portuguese police

From correspondents in New York

February 13, 2007 08:22am

Article from: Agence France-Presse

EAST Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta today urged the UN to consider deploying another Portuguese police unit to bolster security in his restive country ahead of upcoming presidential polls.

Addressing a UN Security Council debate nearly a year after deadly violence sparked by clashes between rival Timorese security forces factions, he said the security situation in his country was "still fragile and precarious".

"I believe it prudent to request the Council to consider the deployment of an additional formed police unit to be provided by Portugal," he said, adding that Lisbon was prepared to provide such a force in the run-up to the elections scheduled for April 9.

Mr Ramos-Horta also pleaded with the Council "to stay the course" and approve UN chief Ban Ki-moon's recommendation that the mandate of UNMIT (the UN mission in East Timor) - which expires February 25 - be extended for another 12 months.

As of January 26, UNMIT comprised a civilian component of 156 international staffers, 382 national staff and 1313 police officers as well as 33 military liaison and staff officers.

Mr Ramos Horta expressed confidence that "with the extensive support from UNMIT, the presence of international observers, and the internationally supervised body of laws and processes in place, we can organise and conduct peaceful, free, fair and transparent elections".

The elections would be East Timor's since it achieved independence in 2002 after 24 years of brutal Indonesian rule.

Indonesia annexed the former Portuguese colony in 1975 with the tacit approval of major world powers but the brutality of the occupation turned world opinion against Jakarta and led to a vote for independence in 1999.

The vote sparked bloody reprisals by Indonesian-backed militia groups but East Timor finally became the world's newest nation in 2002.

Last May, an outbreak of violence in Dili left 37 dead when clashes between rival security force factions degenerated into street violence, pitting members of street gangs and rival martial art schools against each other.

More people have since been killed in sporadic violence in Dili and surrounding districts.

The violence prompted the fledgling nation to seek the deployment of Australian-led foreign peacekeepers and UN police, and the installation of a new government in July headed by Mr Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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