Friday, July 24 05:05 pm
East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta on Friday urged Australians to ignore the "bogus" travel warning against his country, saying violence was also common in Melbourne.
Ramos-Horta took issue with Australia's travel advisory, which warns of gang violence, civil unrest and robbery, and said tourists would enjoy visiting the tiny, impoverished state.
"It is a very, very peaceful country with fantastic people who will welcome you," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said during a visit for the Melbourne International Film Festival.
"Don't pay any attention to the bogus travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, always advising Australians not to go to East Timor," he added.
"Having learned about the level of violence in Melbourne and elsewhere, I will start issuing travel warnings for Australia."
Dozens of people died when rioting erupted in Dili in 2006, prompting the UN to send in police backed by Australian and New Zealand troops.
Canberra's travel advice warns the situation remains unstable, stating: "Violence could occur anywhere at any time in East Timor."
Ramos-Horta dismissed the warnings and pointed to Australia's own problems with violence, including a wave of attacks on Indian students and a hit on a notorious gangland figure in Melbourne last month.