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UN Sends Envoy to East Timor as Violence Escalates


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he will send an envoy to East Timor where violence has escalated between government forces and disgruntled former East Timorese soldiers.

A spokesman for the secretary general says he has been in contact with leaders in the region Thursday to keep up with developments

Meanwhile, about 150 Australian troops arrived in East Timor earlier today. Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he will speed up deployment of about 1,300 troops to the area in response to the deteriorating situation in the country.

Fierce gun battles erupted between former soldiers and government troops for a third day today around Dili and elsewhere. At least two people were killed and foreigners and residents were fleeing the city.

The latest killings raise the death toll from the clashes to at least five since Tuesday. A South Korean citizen caught in the crossfire was shot in the neck and rushed to a hospital.

The crisis erupted on April 28 when 600 dismissed soldiers, one third of the country's military forces, rioted over complaints of alleged discrimination in the military.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the situation there is "dangerous".

Malaysia says it is also sending troops to East Timor.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.