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Australia wants more Asian police in East Timor

Written by: Staff
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DILI, June 5 (Reuters) Australia today called for more Asian nations to send police and troops to East Timor to help quell civil unrest in the fledgling nation and prevent it from becoming a failed state.

Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand have sent a force of 2,500 to East Timor to try to stop violence, sparked last month when the government sacked 600 troops who had protested alleged discrimination against easterners in the army by mostly western officers.

Portugal also sent police, but Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said he was confident other Asian nations would also join the coalition of forces if invited by East Timor.

''From Australia's point of view there are a number of countries who have been involved in East Timor before, and countries who work very well with New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia,'' Nelson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

''I would be reasonably confident that we will see other nations choosing to join the coalition of support,'' he said ahead of a visit to Malaysia today and after he attended a regional security summit in Singapore over the weekend.

When violence broke after East Timor's 1999 independence vote, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, the Phillipines and Thailand were among the Asian countries to offer troops or police for a UN multinational force.

Violence continued in the East Timorese capital Dili, as gangs of easterners and westerners threw rocks at one another and houses were burned. Australian media reported troops were forced to fire tear gas to break up a crowd throwing rocks.

The east-west divide in East Timor's population of around one million people first surfaced during the bloody referendum in 1999 to vote for independence from Indonesia.

MORE REUTERS KD PM1631

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