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New UN envoy arrives in Timor-Leste as international police deploy to more districts

New UN envoy arrives in Timor-Leste as international police deploy to more districts

Reforming Timor-Leste’s security sector following this year’s deadly violence remains the top priority of the United Nations mission in the tiny South-East Asian nation, the UN’s new envoy said shortly after arriving, as international police officers deployed to more of the nation’s districts to end the continuing low-level gang violence.

“There are some very clear immediate priorities which are there in front of the mission. First and foremost of them, the confidence and review of the security sector and sector reform,” Atul Khare, who was appointed the Special Representative of the Secretary-General earlier this month, told reporters on Monday after arriving the previous day.

“The second challenge, would be provision of assistance to the Government to ensure that …[next year’s] elections both the national parliament and to the presidency are conducted in a free and fair manner without any violence or fear,” he said, adding the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) would also keep working to relocate displaced people.

Mr. Khare, who served in an earlier UN mission in Timor-Leste from June 2002 until last year, also paid tribute in his first press conference to Finn Reske-Nielsen, who has been the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and will stay on as Mr. Khare’s deputy.

“Just to highlight a few of the achievements under his guidance, we have seen that the security situation in Dili has stabilised and we have seen the first deployments of the UNPOL (UN Police) officers to the districts – three districts at least,” he said.

The UN said today that it had started deploying UNPOL district commanders and their units to all 12 of Timor-Leste’s districts, deployments that are expected to be completed by the end of the week.

The officers are leaving the capital Dili to join others already stationed at the border regions of Oecussi, Bobonaro and Covalima. The fourth eight-member unit will be deployed to the Baucau district taking the total number of each UNPOL unit to eight officers, it added.

“These additional deployments will begin to lay the groundwork for the security preparations ahead of next year’s post-independence elections,” said Mr. Khare. The UN says it expects a full force of 1,608 international police officers to be in country by the end of January 2007.

As part of UNMIT, there are currently 981 international police officers from 25 different countries implementing screening and mentoring programmes for the National Police force of Timor-Leste under the Police Supplemental Agreement, a deal signed at the start of this month under which the UN has full responsibility for policing.

A further eight UNPOL units will be deployed to Ailieu, Manatuto, Liquica, Ermera, Viqueque, Manufahi, Ainaro and Lautem by the end of this week.

The Security Council created UNMIT in August to help restore order after deadly violence, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May in the country that the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.

One of its key aspects has been bringing in UN police officers to rebuild and support the local force as well as enforcing law and order, particularly in the capital Dili, which remains beset by tensions following this year’s violence that led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 people – or 15 per cent of the population – to flee their homes.