Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sending a senior envoy who is an expert on Timor-Leste to assess the situation as army soldiers opened fire on unarmed police today in fresh violence, killing nine and injuring 27 others in the country which the United Nations shepherded to independence from Indonesia in 2002.<
Two UN police officers were among those injured in the violence that began when army elements launched an attack on national police headquarters in Dili, the capital. After an hour, UN police and military advisers negotiated a cease fire that was agreed to on the condition the police surrender their weapons and leave unarmed.
Condemning the attack, the UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) said soldiers opened fire as unarmed police were being escorted out. UN personnel evacuated the wounded to the mission, and the critically injured were transferred to Dili National Hospital. UN personnel rescued 62 other police officers who now being sheltered at the UN compound.
Concerned at the violence, which began last month when five people were killed and 60 injured in clashes after the dismissal of 594 soldiers - a third of the total armed forces - Mr. Annan today telephoned Timor-Leste and regional leaders, who have committed to send forces to help restore stability, a UN spokesman said.
The Secretary-General spoke with Timorese President Xanana Gusmão and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri as well as Prime Ministers John Howard of Australia and Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia. He is also consulting with the governments of New Zealand and Portugal, the former colonial power.
“In view of the deteriorating security and complex political situation, the Secretary-General has decided to send Ian Martin, head of the UN Human Rights Mission in Nepal, to Dili to assess the situation first hand,” the spokesman said.
Mr. Martin was Mr. Annan's Special Representative in East Timor in 1999, as it was called then, when it voted for independence from Indonesia, which occupied the country after Portugal left in 1974.
Meanwhile, the Security Council today issued a presidential statement welcoming the Secretary-General's initiatives, voicing deep concern at developments in Timor-Leste, recognizing the urgency of the deteriorating situation and condemning the violence.
“The Security Council urges the Government of Timor-Leste to take all necessary steps to end the violence with due respect for human rights and to restore a secure and stable environment,” said Basile Ikouebe of the Republic of the Congo, which holds the Council's rotating presidency.
In its statement, the Council also acknowledged the request made by the Government of Timor-Leste to the Governments of Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to dispatch defence and security forces under bilateral arrangements.
“The Security Council welcomes the positive responses made by the governments concerned and fully supports their deployment of defence and security forces to urgently assist Timor-Leste in restoring and maintaining security,” its President said, looking forward to close cooperation between those forces and UNOTIL.