Lull in unrest in Dili as government calls for UN intervention
Dili (AsiaNews) More people are about; more stores are open in Dili todaythere is a lull in the clashes between armed gangs after fighting pitted rebel soldiers against loyalist troops last month. Eyewitnesses confirm that since yesterday things are quieter in and around the capital, "thanks in part to the great number of foreign troops on patrol". However, the East Timorese government wants United Nations troops to bring the situation back to normal.
East Timor's Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta has in fact called on the United Nations to send a 900-strong multinational police force to put a stop to the bloody unrest.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has agreed to the request but has warned that a new peacekeeping mission will take about six months to be set up.
For UN forces it will mean going back to the small island nation after a year absence. The UN played a key role in helping East Timor free itself from its Indonesian occupiers.
The new force will replace the 2,500 soldiers sent by Australia, new Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal and should include troops from many more regional powers, this according to official sources. It is expected to stay until next year's presidential elections.
For the first time since the troubles began East Timorese President Banana Gusmao went before parliament to deliver a televised speech.
The former anti-Indonesia resistance leader acknowledged that the recent violence had caused unacceptable suffering and pain, that it paralysed the institutions of the state. But he pledged to uphold the constitution and protect democratic government and the rule of law.
The crisis in East Timor was precipitated in April when Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri decided to sack 600 soldiers, 40 per cent of the entire armed forces, who were 'on strike' claiming ethnic discrimination.
Rebel soldiers, who clashed with army units that had remained loyal to the government, then took to the hills. In the vacuum thus created, armed gangs began roaming the streets now that there was no one to enforce the law.
Many in the government and among the population blame the prime minister and have called for his resignation.
Currently, talks are under way among opposition leaders to introduce amendments to the constitution that would enable parliament to remove him from office.