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Unrest in Dili. © UNHCR/S.Martins

“The international community should not have pulled out of East Timor so quickly, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday. Mr Annan earlier announced plans for a major new mission to the troubled nation.But a UN mission substantially larger than the 2000-strong Australia-led force would take at least six months to prepare, Mr Annan said.

“The sad events of recent weeks reflect shortcomings not only on the part of the Timorese leadership, but also on the part of the international community in inadequately sustaining Timor-Leste’s (East Timor’s) nation-building process,” Mr Annan told the UN Security Council. [Read more]

Also read this letter to the editor from the International Herald Tribune:

Losing East Timor

Who lost East Timor? Jeff Kingston, in “Nation rebuilding” (June 10-11) says “The United Nations bears responsibility for leaving before it finished the job.” That’s not correct, and we need to make sure the record is set straight before this becomes part of the received wisdom.

Decisions on a UN operation of this kind are the responsibility not of the whole United Nations but of the Security Council or, if you prefer, the five permanent members, who each have a veto.

The Security Council took the decision to terminate the UN military presence in East Timor, against the wishes and in spite of the pleas of Secretary General Kofi Annan that a small military force be left in place. Had he been listened to, the tragedy now taking place could have been avoided.

Frank Peel, Geneva

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