9.6.06

Timor-Leste: textos importantes

By IAN McPHEDRAN, 03jun06
AUSTRALIA will play hardball with the United Nations over any fresh resolution for East Timor and will insist on controlling the military and policing aspects of the mission.It is understood the Government wants virtually no UN interference over security functions in the trouble-plagued country. That means a long and costly military deployment for Australian taxpayers to fund.
The operation is already chalking up a bill of tens of millions of dollars a week, and any long-term commitment in the numbers required to keep a lid on the troubles would come at a huge cost.
Government sources yesterday confirmed Australia would draw a line in the sand on security, but added there was still a "long way to go" in negotiations for a new UN Security Council resolution.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer is due to fly into Dili this morning for urgent talks on the crisis.
He will meet President Xanano Gusmao and other senior officials. Mr Downer will be briefed on the military situation by Brigadier Michael Slater and on the political situation by Ambassador Margaret Twoney.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources have told The Advertiser Prime Minister John Howard will visit Dili "soon" to see the Australian-led mission for himself. "Howard is coming up next week," one source said.
The Prime Minister's office would not comment but it is understood that a visit won't proceed until things have settled down enough so that Mr Howard would not get in the military's way.
Military chief Brigadier Slater yesterday flew to Maubissi, south of Dili, for talks with one of the rebel military leaders, Major Alfredo Reinado. Brigadier Slater said his talks with Reinado had gone very well. "He is co-operating with us fully," he said. Brigadier Slater is meeting all the key factional players and he was confident that all would agree to disarm.
"They want to talk," he said.
Dili was much calmer yesterday with trouble confined to the looting of a few homes and offices and some localised gang clashes.
The resignations of Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato and Defence Minister Rocque Rodriguez had an immediate dampening effect on the level of violence.
The city was virtually free of smoke for the first time in more than a week and people began to trickle back to their homes.
Australian Federal Police forensic investigators continued to probe crime scenes, particularly the remains of a house in which two adults and four children were burned alive.
A major humanitarian operation is in full swing to feed more than 50,000 people living in camps around the capital and in the countryside.
The rumour mill is working overtime and many people are fearful of a major conflict between warring military and police factions now holed up in the hills above the city.
Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian patrols are starting to bite and security will be bolstered by the arrival today of 140 Portuguese GNR police.
Known as the "head kickers", they will not be under military command and will answer directly to the Portuguese Embassy - which might present a few challenges for Brigadier Slater and his police advisers.