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East Timor President Says Dili Remains Volatile


The president of East Timor says the capital, Dili, remains volatile after two people were killed during election campaigning for parliamentary elections at the end of the month. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta says most of the violence in his country is not political.

"The security situation in Dili remains volatile in the sense that we have not been able to completely eliminate some of the causes of the violence," he said. "But the violence is largely non-politically motivated. It involves youth gangs."

Mr. Ramos Horta made the remarks in Jakarta, during his first state visit since being elected president last month.

While those elections were peaceful, two people died in separate incidents Sunday in what appears to be political violence before this month's parliamentary election. Both were supporters of the National Congress of Reconstruction of Timor (CNRT), the new party led by former President Xanana Gusmao.

The parliamentary elections are expected to be a tough race between the CNRT and Fretilin, East Timor's dominant party.

The deaths have been blamed on a group of off-duty police officers, and an investigation is under way.

Mr. Gusmao, who will become prime minister if his party wins, accused the killers of not wanting the elections to take place. Mr. Ramos Horta played down the incident, saying while there has been sporadic campaign violence, most has been rock throwing and name calling.

"This is the level of violence so far. In the comparative to elections in a few other countries, I do not believe that this can be considered as violence," said Mr. Ramos Horta. "I do not know whether it will be managed at this level, whether it will get worse, but I can say is we are taking precautionary measures."

Bitter rivalry between the police and security forces led to looting and street fighting a year ago in Dili. Around two-thirds of the residents fled to refugee camps where thousands still live.

The government asked for an international security force to keep the peace, and it continues to patrol the country.

The East Timor president was in Jakarta to meet with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The two leaders agreed to focus on building the relationship between their countries.

They pledged to extend the work of a Commission of Truth and Friendship, which is investigating violence that took place before and after East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. More than 1,000 people may have died in rampages by anti-independence militias backed by Jakarta's army.

Human rights activists criticize the commission as toothless and say it has not brought to justice those responsible for the 1999 violence, or for Indonesia's often-brutal rule of East Timor. The East Timor government has repeatedly said it wanted to focus more on building a friendly relationship with Indonesia than on justice.

East Timor became fully independent in 2002 after a brief period of U.N. administration.

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