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Security Dominates Trilateral Talks in East Timor


Australia and Indonesia have held talks with East Timor in Dili, amid continuing instability in the fledgling nation. Australia emphasized its lasting commitment to East Timor but wants East Timor to start standing on its own feet.

East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta and Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer agreed that security is improving in East Timor, but that more help is needed before stability can be assured in the troubled infant state.

Mr. Horta wants foreign troops - from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal - to stay in his country. But debate continues about how much military support is needed for a planned United Nations police contingent.

Before leaving Australia for the East Timor talks, Downer had hinted in a cut of the Australian troop presence. After Monday's talks, he stressed Australia's continued commitment, including military support, no matter what the circumstances are facing East Timor.

Downer and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda met Monday in Dili with East Timor's leaders to discuss ways to increase security in the tiny country.

Last week, more than 50 inmates escaped from a prison in Dili, led by the charismatic Major Alfredo Reinado. He is suspected of orchestrating some of the violence that shook East Timor earlier this year and had been arrested on charges of attempted murder.

The fugitives are still on the run. And, after weeks of relative calm, there has been new gang violence in Dili following the escape. Shots were fired and serious injuries have been reported.

The East Timorese government had accused international peacekeepers of not providing enough security outside the jail, making the escape possible. In response, Downer said East Timor must do more to fend for itself.

"The East Timorese have to accept responsibility now, because they're an independent country, for their own affairs," he said. "And they have to learn to find solutions to their own problems, not just expect the international community indefinitely to solve all those problems for them."

The fugitive leader, Reinado, led a group of 600 disaffected soldiers who had been dismissed after going on strike after complaining of discrimination within the army. Clashes with loyalist forces caused chaos throughout the country and forced thousands of people from their homes in Dili.

The United Nations has agreed to deploy more than 1,600 international police to East Timor.