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U.N. hands back control in Timor-Leste

VIQUEQUE, Timor-Leste, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The United Nations has returned control of the largest district in Timor-Leste to the country's police force, officials said Saturday.

Atul Khare, special representative of the secretary-general for Timor-Leste, and Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres spoke at the handover ceremony in Viqueque. Khare emphasized accountability for the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste, saying it can be guaranteed only through "the timely, effective and fair application of the penal code and PNTL disciplinary code."

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Khare praised the government for its commitment to punish police officers who break laws and regulations.

"I am sure that this commitment will be welcomed by the vast majority of PNTL who everyday strive to live up to their oath of service -- to strictly abide by the rule of law, to respect and protect human rights, to ensure the democratic order and to serve in an impartial manner," he said.

The U.N. Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste took over police responsibilities in 2006 after a police strike led to violence that left dozens of people dead and 15 percent of the population driven from their homes.

Viqueque is the fourth district where the U.N. has handed back control to the police. Timor-Leste also took over the national policing center in September.

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