State of emergency in East Timor

Wednesday 04 December 2002 15.43

East Timor's government has declared a state of emergency following riots in which five people are reported to have been killed.

Hundreds of students and police clashed near parliament in the capital Dili.

More than 30 United Nations peacekeepers surrounded the parliament building.

A UN Land Rover and other cars were set on fire during the rioting in the capital of the world's newest nation.

A cabinet minister who did not want to be named said things have quietened down but the situation remains tense and there is a heavy security presence on the streets.

The state of emergency means that police and defence forces had been ordered to clear the streets and could take anyone into custody.

The United Nations said it had only confirmed one death so far but an official said the toll could rise.

Blow to democracy effortsCivil unrest is common in the fledgling state, but this violence is seen as a real blow to efforts to establish a peaceful democracy.

The UN ran East Timor for almost three years after it voted to break away from Indonesian rule after 24 years in 1999.

Over 1,000 people are thought to have been killed in the backlash by pro-Jakarta militia gangs, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, following the vote for independence.