UN’s Timor-Leste mission extended briefly while Council mulls future options

18 August 2006 – As the Security Council weighs requests from Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Government of Timor-Leste to create a new, expanded United Nations mission in the South-East Asian country, the 15-member body today briefly extended the current mission there.

The mandate of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), a special political mission established by the Council last year to carry out peace-building activities, was set to expire on Sunday but now has a mandate running through 25 August.

The security situation remains fragile in Timor-Leste, which the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia in 2002. A wave of violence earlier this year left dozens dead and forced 155,000 people to flee their homes after clashes broke out when the Government dismissed some 600 soldiers who had gone on strike.

In a report last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Council to establish a new mission to help rebuild institutions, promote reconciliation and assist in nationwide elections scheduled for next year. He also proposed a UN police force of more than 1,600 to provide additional security.

Timor-Leste’s Government has issued repeated calls for an expanded mission. In unanimously adopting today’s resolution, the Council took note of two letters from the country’s Prime Minister José Ramos Horta to Mr. Annan earlier this month.

In one of those letters, the prime minister characterized the country’s national police force as “dysfunctional,” adding that some 70,000 internally displaced persons remained in camps, afraid to return to their homes.

“We believe that a robust police, military and civilian element is indispensable to our hard-won peace and freedom,” said Mr. Ramos Horta in another letter. “There is a consensus among all stakeholders that the situation in Timor-Leste requires the establishment of a United Nations multidimensional and integrated peacekeeping mission.”

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