21 May 2011

East Timor leader says UN should leave

6:54 am on 21 May 2011

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of East Timor has lashed out at the United Nations mission in East Timor, saying it should leave the country.

In response to a UN document accusing him of being an obstacle to democracy, Mr Gusmao proposed the UN mission in East Timor be wound up and its staff be sent to the Middle East to support democracy there.

The United Nations has distanced itself from the document and says its relationship with East Timor's government is strong.

But the ABC reports that this is not the first time the government and the UN have been at odds in recent months.

The document, published by an East Timorese newspaper, was written by an employee of the UN mission and was part of a presentation at a UN meeting in January this year.

During a speech in Dili this week, Mr Gusmao vigorously defended his record of fostering democracy in East Timor.

The ABC reports President Jose Ramos-Horta has leapt to the prime minister's defence, calling the document pseudo-analysis.

Dr Ramos-Horta said many UN staff in East Timor do not speak the local language and rarely mix with East Timorese.

The government accused the UN of producing a report based on out-dated data.

The UN says the leaked document does not reflect the views of the mission.

Swinburne University associate professor in politics Michael Leach says the matter is another sign that East Timor is keen to stand on its own two feet.

The ABC reports it is now nine years since East Timor declared independence from Indonesia.

The United Nations is planning to withdraw from East Timor by the end of next year, but will help oversee elections before then.