Subject: AFP: UN welcomes pledge for peaceful ETimor poll

Agence France Presse -- English

May 28, 2007 Monday 9:18 AM GMT

UN welcomes pledge for peaceful ETimor poll

DILI, May 28 2007

The United Nations on Monday congratulated East Timor's political parties for pledging a free and fair election next month, when the troubled nation will choose a new prime minister and parliament.

The 16 parties contesting the crucial vote agreed last week to a code of conduct during campaigning and to either accept the outcome or challenge it peacefully through the courts.

A separate pact commits those elected to parliament to represent all East Timorese and to work towards boosting democracy in the fledgling state.

The June 30 polls come after Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta won a landslide presidential election earlier this month, raising hopes that he can pull the nation from a cycle of violence and turmoil.

"The new parliament will need a strong and vibrant opposition to ensure that democracy continues to mature in Timor-Leste," said Atul Khare, the head of the UN mission in East Timor, using the nation's formal name.

"In the accord, the parties commit themselves to ensure that this takes place," he said.

East Timor was plunged into violence last May when firefights erupted between factions of the military and police, before degenerating into gang unrest that left 37 people dead.

Another 150,000 people were forced to flee their homes and many are still displaced.

Foreign troops, deployed to restore security, are still patrolling the streets and will guard the election along with about 4,000 UN and local police.

The former president, popular onetime guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao, is a leading contender for the powerful role of prime minister.

Khare said the pacts reflect the commitment "of all political parties to play their role freely, fairly and transparently not just during the campaign and voting period, but in the formation of the new parliament and the opposition."

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