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May 27, 2006

PROBLEMS IN EAST TIMOR, but the United Nations doesn't seem to have done much good:

After several soldiers opened fire on unarmed police in Dili on Thursday, killing 10 as they were being escorted from their headquarters by U.N. officers, the traumatized force melted away. Frightened officers fled for the surrounding hills. On Saturday, no one patrolled the largely abandoned streets but the vigilantes. . . .

Hours after the United Nations announced it was also evacuating nonessential personnel from the country, dozens of employees trickled into the U.N. compound carrying suitcases and backpacks. Some were distraught over leaving their Timorese colleagues behind and abruptly suspending services to the country's impoverished population.

I can imagine. It certainly seems to have upset the Timorese:

Arriving at Dili's airport, Tim Costello, the head of aid agency World Vision said the departure of international aid staff and UN officials was sending a bad signal.

"The symbols are all wrong," Costello told AAP.

"The people who are camped here (at the airport), who can never get on a plane, see the UN leaving.

"I would hate to think of the message they get from that.

"I think it's important for aid workers and the UN to actually be here and say, 'You're not so strife-torn and hopeless that it's only a one-way ticket out.'"

The U.N. flies out, World Vision flies in. I know who I'd rather see getting my money. And Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has a sensible perspective:

"But it's a very, very new country. After all, the referendum was only in August 1999.

"Full independence has come relatively recently. It's going to be tough for them."

These things take a while. It hasn't fully settled down in the former Yugoslavia yet, after all.

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