Three-nation talks begin in Dili

The foreign ministers of Australia, Indonesia and East Timor have begun talks in Dili.

The ministers are discussing issues ranging from security to economic development.

But Radio Australia's reporter, Anne Barker, said the latest security crisis in Dili - where 57 prisoners last week escaped from prison - was high on the agenda.

East Timor wants international forces to remain in Dili as long as possible.

But Australia plans to wind back its troop numbers once the United Nations begins sending in a new peacekeeping force.

Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said East Timor had to start solving its own problems.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has tightened security along its border with East Timor, as the search continues for the prison escapees.

Major Alfredo Reinado escaped with 56 other inmates from his Dili jail last week, triggering an ongoing manhunt by UN police and international peacekeepers.

Major Reinado is one of the East Timorese rebel leaders associated with recent violence in the country.

He has been charged with several offences, including attempted murder and the embezzlement of military property.

He was arrested with 20 other men in July over their role in the violence that erupted in and around Dili in April and May.

During May, he led a rebel group of military police to Maubisse, south of Dili, amid a massive outbreak of violence.

The unrest involved fighting between rival security force factions and ethnic gangs, leading to the deaths of at least 21 people and forcing about 150,000 people from their homes.

It had its origins in the March sacking of about 600 soldiers, who had deserted their barracks complaining of discrimination.


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