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25 December 2008

East Timor President, UN Play Down Unrest Fears

24 December 2008 DILI, East Timor (AFP)--East Timor's president and the United Nations played down reports Wednesday that the tiny Asian nation was staggering under the weight of social and economic problems and on the brink of chaotic unrest.

The Australian daily newspaper reported this week that a confidential U.N. report found that East Timor's police and legal system, as well as economic turmoil and bitterly divided politics, risked sparking violence similar to the unrest in 2006.

The unrest, triggered by the desertion of 600 soldiers, led to fighting among police, military and gangs that killed at least 37 people and caused around 100,000 of the country's 1 million people to flee their homes.

However, President Jose Ramos-Horta said there was no sign East Timor was set to slip into anarchy again.

"It's better if I read what (The Australian) is saying first, but I do want to say the situation in Timor-Leste is very calm. There has been extraordinary progress on every front," Ramos-Horta said.

"I believe that peace is gaining root in Timor-Leste, and anyone who suggests otherwise is either misinformed or pessimistic, or they want Timor to remain unstable so that they can have influence here," he said.

The U.N. mission in East Timor, or UNMIT, which was established in the country following the 2006 violence, refused to confirm or deny the existence of the confidential report, but said East Timor is progressing toward peace and stability.

"In UNMIT's view, we can say clearly that we feel very good about the progress that has been made in Timor in 2008 and the resiliency demonstrated by the Timorese people in a year that started with great challenge," acting special representative Finn Reske-Nielsen said in a statement.

"The country is at peace and the people of Timor-Leste are ready to celebrate the Christmas holidays in a calm and dignified manner," he said.

East Timor gained formal independence in 2002 after a bloody 24-year occupation by neighbor Indonesia that led to the deaths of up to 200,000 people.

Source : Dowjones Business News

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