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Commission worried about UN withdrawal from East Timor

Brisbane's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has expressed concern about the United Nations' plans to withdraw from East Timor this year.

Commission Executive Officer Peter Arndt said that the ongoing support of the international community was vital if the fledgling nation is to be able to develop in a secure and stable environment.

"The United Nations is already reducing its commitment in East Timor in an effort to cut costs and we have concerns that the new nation will not be ready to go it alone if the UN pulls out soon," Mr Arndt said.

"Contact we have had with people in East Timor suggests that East Timorese leaders are concerned that their police and military may not be ready to ensure security in the absence of the UN" he said.

"They are also concerned that having to put more emphasis on policing and security will reduce the government's capacity to deal with crucial economic and governance issues at this time," he said.

Mr Arndt said that it was pleasing to hear that Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, is expressing concern about the proposed withdrawal and is seeking to lobby for a change of heart in the UN.

"We know that East Timor will seek to lobby the UN's Security Council in October and we urge Australia to do all it can to support East Timor's efforts to keep the UN in their country," Mr Arndt added

"The Pope echoed the words of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John XXIII, when he recently urged greater commitment to the United Nations in dealing with conflict and in promoting global peace and security," he said.

"It is important for us to remember the important place John XXIII gave to the United Nations as the appropriate means for building peace, promoting just development in all nations and in protecting and promoting human rights," he said.

The Commission will lobby the Australian Government to support East Timor's desire to keep the UN in their country. It is also encouraging Catholics to take advantage of gatherings it is arranging in different parts of the Archdiocese to reflect on John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris. The Commission is arranging a number of gatherings around the Archdiocese.

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (Archdiocese of Brisbane)

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (Archdiocese of Brisbane)
United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor | UNTAET Downsizing (PDF)
East Timor Foreign Minister hopes for continued UN presence (ABC Radio The World Today 25/8/03)

10 Sep 2003