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Timor-Leste: UN Office extended, expanded role?

Security Council extends UN Office in Timor-Leste, will consider expanded role

Expressing “deep concern over the volatile security situation in Timor-Leste and its serious humanitarian repercussions,” the United Nations Security Council today extended for two months the world body’s small office there and asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to report before that mandate expires on an expanded future role.

Condemning continuing acts of violence against people and destruction of property in the wake of clashes sparked by the dismissal in April of nearly 600 soldiers, a third of the total armed forces, the Council unanimously voted to extend the mandate of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) until 20 August.

The 15-member body also expressed its “full support” for the deployment of international security forces by the Governments of Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia that are trying to restore and maintain security in Timor-Leste.

The resolution also “urges all parties in Timor-Leste to refrain from violence and to participate in the democratic process,” and welcomes Mr. Annan’s call for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to set up a special inquiry commission to investigate the conflict in the tiny nation.

In a related development, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa has welcomed the issuance by the Timorese Prosecutor-General’s office of an arrest warrant against former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato for alleged distribution of arms to a civilian group.

“Mr. Hasegawa said the independence of the judiciary branch is key to re-asserting the rule of law, and the action taken is a clear sign that the Timorese are carrying out their constitutionally mandated tasks,” UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York today.

On the humanitarian front, Ms. Okabe said food distribution continues to reach the camps in the capital Dili, where Timorese have fled to avoid the recent violence, and these deliveries were now averaging more than 25 tons a day. Official estimates say there are also around 78,000 internally displaced people outside the capital and around 69,000 in Dili, figures that represent about 15 per cent of the entire population.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Timor-Leste, Finn Reske-Nielsen has announced that a pledge of $3 million has been received from Australia, bringing the total pledged so far to $13.2 million for aid to the country, Ms. Okabe added. Last week’s UN flash appeal asked for some $19 million to help the Timorese people in the wake of the violence in which at least 37 people where killed.

The UN presence has been drawn down since the original UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET) was set up in 1999 after the country voted for independence from Indonesia, which took over after Portugal’s withdrawal in 1974. Once independence was attained in 2002, that mission was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), which in turn was succeeded by the current, even smaller UNOTIL.

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