Subject: AFP: Timor presidential hopefuls sign code of conduct

Agence France Presse

March 16, 2007

Timor presidential hopefuls sign code of conduct

DILI, March 16 2007

The eight candidates contesting troubled East Timor's presidential poll signed a code of conduct Friday designed to ensure the vote is fair and peaceful, an official said.

The April 9 presidential election will be East Timor's first since it achieved independence in 2002, but there are concerns it could trigger unrest.

The code commits the eight candidates to respect the poll's result or challenge it in appropriate courts, said Atul Khare, the head of the UN mission in East Timor, who signed the accord as a witness in the capital, Dili.

Khare said in a statement that the "signing signifies a formal acknowledgement... that will help to ensure that the 2007 presidential elections are free, fair, transparent and peaceful."

Concern for the poll centres partly on fugitive soldier Major Alfredo Reinado, who is being hunted by Australian troops from the international peacekeeping force in the impoverished country.

But East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, considered the favourite to win the election, has played down fears Reinado could destabilise the vote, saying he lacks sufficient support and should surrender.

The voter registration deadline for the poll was extended this week, to next Wednesday, partly because of security problems.

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