Subject: U.N. official urges steady presence in East Timor

Japan Times

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009

U.N. official urges steady presence in East Timor

By <> KEISUKE OKADA Staff writer

The United Nations should extend its peacekeeping operations in East Timor for at least another year to establish long-term security in the fledgling nation, a high-ranking U.N. official said in a recent interview in Tokyo.

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"Security has greatly improved there but is still fragile. In such a situation, the presence of the U.N. Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) should be extended for one more year," said Atul Khare, a veteran Indian diplomat who heads the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission there.

East Timor (Timor-Leste) won independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Khare was in Tokyo for talks with government officials. He was to leave for the United States on Wednesday to report to the U.N. Security Council on peacekeeping progress in East Timor.

The U.N. mandate on UNMIT expires Feb. 28. Continuing the operation requires approval of the Security Council.

Some 1,550 police officers and military liaison officers from Australia, New Zealand, China and other parts of Asia are participating in UNMIT, in addition to about 350 civilians from various countries.

A Japanese diplomat has been designated by the U.N. secretary general to be one of the two deputy representatives of the mission, but no members of the Self-Defense Forces or Japanese police are stationed there.

Khare said in an interview with The Japan Times that he highly appreciated the contributions Japan has made to East Timor, both financial and in sending personnel.

Japan has provided some ¥15 billion in economic aid to the tiny state, which has a population of 1.15 million, since it gained independence. It also mobilized more than 2,000 SDF personnel on its behalf for 2 1/2 years until summer 2004.

The SDF was primarily engaged in repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and other logistic activities.

Khare said he expects Japan to continue its support for East Timor's nation-building efforts.

"As the largest economic power in Asia, Japan should be morally responsible for the development of East Timor," he said, adding that the country is "too young to fail."

Specifically, he pointed out that Japan could contribute most to the creation of a modern police system by providing expertise, including in human resources development and in scientific investigation techniques, among other subjects.

The U.N. official also expects Japan to take a leading role in the international conference of East Timor's supporting nations in April in Dili, as it has done in past meetings.

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