Subject: AFP: ASEAN concerned at Timor violence

Agence France Presse -- English

January 12, 2007

ASEAN concerned at Timor violence

CEBU, Philippines, Jan 12 2007

ASEAN has expressed concern at last year's deadly unrest in East Timor but still supports its application for membership, Foreign Minister Jose Luis Guterres said Friday.

"It's a fact that we will join ASEAN," Guterres told reporters after meeting foreign ministrs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), saying Dili may join in three to five years.

He said the situation in the newly independent nation was now "very stable indeed" after 37 people died in clashes last April and May and more than 150,000 fled their homes.

Stability has largely returned following the arrival of foreign peacekeepers and the installation of a new government in July.

Guterres said it was natural for neighbouring countries to express concern at the violence. "We welcome this concern but we know also the the situation in East Timor has stabilised."

He said ASEAN's 10 members unanimously suppported East Timor's accession, to be signed Saturday, to the grouping's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

Last year's violence was not a factor in its membership application, the foreign minister said. "I haven't heard or seen any reservations from any country in ASEAN."

The attitude of former ruler Indonesia was "very favourable."

Guterres said the date of his country's membership depends on its own preparations and on whether current members think it is ready.

The foreign minister expressed confidence there would be no repeat of the violence.

"If you compare the death toll in the crisis of less than 50, in other countries more people die in accidents in a day. But whatever the number killed by violence, it is not acceptable to us.

"We will do all we can to stabilise the situation and promote democracy, transparency, human rights and good government."

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