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East Timor security talks begin Australian FM in East Timor talks
(about 4 hours later)
Security talks have begun in East Timor's capital, Dili, between the country's foreign minister and his Australian and Indonesian counterparts. Foreign ministers from East Timor, Australia and Indonesia have held security talks in East Timor's capital, Dili.
Australia is leading an international peacekeeping effort in Dili after violence broke out earlier this year. The meeting followed an upsurge in unrest in the city and the escape of dozens of prison inmates.
The meeting comes after more unrest in the city and the escape of more than 50 inmates from a prison there. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his country would continue to help provide security in the independent nation.
East Timor's government has accused the international forces of not providing enough security outside the jail. But he also said East Timor should take more responsibility for its affairs.
Australia has rejected the allegation and there is likely to be some tough talking during Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's talks with East Timor's Jose Luis Guterres, according to the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney. Australian troops have led an international force which has been in East Timor since May, after gang and ethnic violence left more than 20 dead and thousands homeless.
Some of the fugitives have been recaptured but the vast majority are still on the run. 'Concerned'
Among them is Major Alfredo Reinado, who is suspected of orchestrating some of the violence that shook East Timor earlier this year. After the talks, which also included East Timor's Prime Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, Mr Downer said Australia was committed to helping East Timor.
In May, after then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri fired nearly half the country's soldiers for going on strike, he led a group of 600 disaffected soldiers against forces loyal to the government. "We obviously continue to be concerned about the security situation, the outbreak of violence in Dili, though the advice I've had is the situation is somewhat better then it has been," he said.
The Australian-led peacekeeping force was sent in shortly after to try to restore order. Mr Downer said Australia supported the recent UN decision to deploy a peacekeeping mission of 1,600 police, but stressed it would need to be backed up by a stronger military force.
Terrorism issue But Australia has been looking to reduce its troop presence in East Timor and on Sunday, Mr Downer called on the government to take more responsibility for security.
Mr Downer is expected to talk about scaling back his country's deployment following the approval of a new UN mission to East Timor. "The East Timorese have to accept responsibility for their own affairs and work to solve their own problems, not expect us and the United Nations to fix up all their problems," he said.
He has also made it clear he believes East Timor should take a more active role in its own security. 'Not so fast'
Details of the new UN peacekeeping mission to East Timor will also be on the agenda and Mr Downer will also have talks on terrorism and trans-national crime with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda. Mr Ramos-Horta told journalists that while the situation in the country was improving, the Australian troop presence was necessary.
The discussions are taking place against a backdrop of renewed violence. "The Australians - as are the New Zealanders, the Malaysians and the Portuguese - are very keen to leave as soon as possible," he said after the meeting.
After weeks of relative calm, there has been further gang violence in Dili, with shots fired and serious injuries reported. "We are the ones to ask them: 'Please, not so fast.' We still need them here."
The UN refugee agency UNHCR warned last week that violence was escalating in Dili.
Sporadic clashes have been reported and last week 57 inmates, including rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, accused of sparking some of the May violence, broke out of prison in Dili.
None of the escapees have been recaptured and the Indonesian military says it has put troops on alert to prevent them crossing the border.