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UN hands over all policing and defence authority to Timor-Leste Government

19 May 2004 In another landmark of progress for Timor-Leste, the United Nations mission in the southeast Asian country today handed over all official responsibility for policing and external security to the government of the world body's youngest member.

"This is an historic occasion and an important milestone in Timor-Leste's history as an independent sovereign state," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Kamalesh Sharma said following the formal transfer of power at a ceremony at the airport in Dili, the capital.

Mr. Sharma had high praise for all UN police and peacekeeping forces as well as the nations that contributed to UN operations since October 1999 after Timor-Leste voted to separate from Indonesia and following formal independence in May 2002, most recently in the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET).

"They have not only successfully maintained peace and security but have also trained and nurtured the police and defence forces of Timor-Leste," providing the "enabling environment for the leaders and the people of Timor-Leste to concentrate on social and economic development," he said.

Mr. Sharma and Timor-Leste President Xanana Gusmão and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri signed the transfer related to defence authority while UN Police Commissioner Sandra Peisley and Timor-Leste Police Commissioner Paulo Martins signed the police document.

UNMISET was extended last week by the Security Council until May 2005, based on an interim Security Council review after six months. A key aspect of the extended mission will be continued mentoring and capacity building of the police service, as well as the public administration and justice system of Timor-Leste.

"I express my profound gratitude to you for helping to build a culture of peace," President Gusmão said in words directed to the UN police and the peacekeeping forces.

The country's development partners, including the United Nations and international financial institutions, warmly praised the government at the Timor-Leste and Development Partners Meeting (TLDPM) which ended yesterday in Dili.

For its part the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said officials from nine member states of the Community of Democracies who visited last week found that the country had made great advances in establishing democracy but needs to strengthen the judiciary and take other steps to ensure that democracy becomes firmly rooted.



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