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Timor-Leste: Talks begins on expanded UN mission

Envoy begins talks on expanded UN mission in Timor-Leste following violence

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste today conferred with a leading member of the governing party on the first full day of his mission to assess the need for an increased United Nations presence after violence tore through the small South-East Asian nation.

Ian Martin, a veteran of UN involvement in Timor-Leste which the world body shepherded to independence from Indonesia four years ago, met with Ana Pessoa from the Fretilin party of outgoing Prime Minister Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned yesterday after several days of demonstrations.

Mr. Martin, who arrived in Dili, the capital, yesterday, has said the size of an enhanced UN mission would be decided by the Security Council on the basis of recommendations from Mr. Annan.

The crisis, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, erupted in late April with the dismissal of some 600 soldiers, a third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence cost at least 37 lives and drove more than 150,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes into makeshift camps or to host families, according to latest figures tabulated today.

The world body first set up the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), with Mr. Martin as Mr. Annan’s Special Representative, in 1999 following the country’s vote for independence from Indonesia, which had taken over at the end of Portugal’s colonial rule in 1974.

This robust structure was kept until independence in 2002, when UNTAET was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET). This in turn was succeeded by the current, even smaller UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).

Earlier this month, Mr. Annan said it was “obvious that the UN will have to go back to Timor-Leste in a much larger form than we are at the moment.”

On the humanitarian front, the World Food Programme (WFP) today reported the completion of a second round of the distribution of two-week rations for 53,000 displaced persons in Dili, totalling 53.6 tonnes. Some 97 tonnes of food have been delivered to Ermera and Manatuto districts south and east of Dili.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs said it had coordinated delivery of 80 tonnes of food and non-food aid to the island of Atauro off the Dili coast, assisting more than 1,000 displaced people and 9,000 local residents.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that a mass measles vaccination programme which was suspended last week because of political turmoil had resumed. Teams will be sent tomorrow to Atauro Island and will also begin vaccinations in Dili schools that have resumed classes.

For its part the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has so far distributed over 1,800 tents, 2,400 plastic sheets, 17,000 blankets, 1,400 jerry cans. A second consignment of relief supplies is on its way from Amman, Jordan, the agency said.

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