Subject: AU: UN admits to talks with Major Reinado's lawyers

The Australian

UN admits to talks with Major Reinado's lawyers

By Mark Dodd in Dili

March 14, 2007 12:00

THE UN has admitted holding talks with the lawyers for East Timor army fugitive Alfredo Reinado after twice denying it was involved in negotiations to secure his surrender.

Asked on Sunday and on Monday whether Atul Khare, the head of the UN mission in East Timor, had been involved in talks with Major Reinado's lawyers about a possible deal, UN spokeswoman Allison Cooper said he had not.

But presented with evidence obtained by The Australian, the UN has now admitted holding talks with Benevides Correia Baros, president of the East Timor Lawyers Association, who is representing Reinado.

Reinado, an Australian-trained East Timorese army officer, was commander of the country's military police unit, but deserted last May. He is wanted for alleged involvement in political violence.

In a statement released late on Monday evening, Ms Cooper said Mr Baros, in his capacity as Major Reinado's lawyer, met Mr Khare last week. During the talks, the UN chief told Mr Baros that Major Reinado had to face justice.

"All actions taken by UNMIT (the UN Integrated Mission in Timor Leste) in relation to Alfredo Reinado have been consistent with its mandated task to support the Government of Timor Leste (East Timor) and all relevant institutions to consolidate stability," Ms Cooper said.

But it is understood the Australian Defence Force is uneasy about any UN role involving Major Reinado.

The ADF regards the UN's admission that it has been involved in talks as a breach of an undertaking it gave last week to stay clear of dealings involving the country's most wanted man.

Canberra, which is uneasy about the prospect of Australian troops becoming mired in East Timor's political problems, is believed to share the ADF's concerns about the UN action.

"A perception other parties are prepared to negotiate with Reinado could undermine the ongoing operation to secure his arrest," a Western diplomatic source in Dili said.

Last May, Major Reinado and 20 heavily armed military police fled into the hills in support of 590 soldiers who were protesting against alleged discrimination within the ranks of the East Timor Defence Force.

He faces treason charges for his involvement in last year's political violence, notably a gun battle with government soldiers on the outskirts of Dili that left five dead and 10 injured.

He was arrested last year but in late August led a breakout from Dili's Becora prison with 56 other inmates and has since been on the run.

Earlier this month, Major Reinado looted 25 automatic weapons, two-way radios and bullet-proof vests from two police border posts before retreating to the southern town of Same.

That led President Xanana Gusmao to ask the Australian-led peacekeeping force in Dili to make an arrest.

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