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UN On Second East Timor Attack

Extract From UN Press Briefing

For a second consecutive day, armed militia in East Timor have attacked a UN complex, leading the UN mission to temporarily relocate some staff stationed there to Dili, UN officials said Thursday.

Yesterday's attack in Vikeke follows an incident Tuesday in which about 200 militia threw rocks and severely damaged the UN electoral office in Maliana. One UN staff member and about a dozen local Timorese were injured.

According to UN officials in Dili, in the latest episode about 15 members of a militia surrounded and threatened UN staff at their residence. After a discussion between staff members and local police, which at some point involved a local militia leader, there seemed to be agreement that a similar incident would not happen again. However, shortly afterwards the militia showed up again, triggering the decision to temporarily relocate the electoral officers. Seven other staff, including UN civilian police and a security officer, remain behind.

At a news conference in Dili, the spokesman for the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), David Wimhurst, said that the chief of security for UNAMET had been dispatched to Vikeke and would meet with local police officers.

The UN hoped that the situation would stabilize and staff could return to their work, Mr. Wimhurst said. In the meantime, UNAMET would report the situation to UN Headquarters in New York, where Secretary-General Kofi Annan could eventually make his own assessment of the security situation in East Timor.

In response to a question, Mr. Wimhurst said the UN was not considering provisions to arm its civilian police. "The Indonesian police are mandated to protect us and that situation is not going to change," he said.

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