|Subject: AP: E. Timor Autonomy To Be Discussed
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FEBRUARY 06, 04:46 EST E. Timor Autonomy To Be Discussed
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) Indonesian and Portuguese diplomats have wrapped up preliminary negotiations on an autonomy agreement for East Timor, but left key questions open ahead of weekend talks at the United Nations, a U.N. envoy said.
Jamsheed Marker, who was appointed 22 months ago to break the long-standing deadlock over the former Portuguese colony, said ``major points'' still need to be settled when the foreign ministers of Portugal and Indonesia meet in New York on U.N.-sponsored talks Sunday and Monday.
``This document in many ways can stand by itself and could form a very useful basis for a constitution for East Timor whatever form that might take,'' Marker said. ``We've got the essentials there and have gone into great detail including electoral processes, judicial systems, citizenship.''
Senior diplomats from both countries had been trying to wrap up the framework of an autonomy agreement when Indonesia last week offered to consider independence for East Timor if a majority of its people reject autonomy.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama and Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas to New York to discuss Indonesia's surprise offer.
Indonesia, which invaded East Timor in 1975, has ruled out a referendum, saying it could lead to civil war. The Portuguese and Annan say any agreement must be approved by the East Timorese people.
``The question now is just to find out how we are going to consult the people of East Timor,'' said Joao Carrascalao, president of the Union of Democratic Timorese and a member of the National Council of Timorese Resistance.
He said that to avoid bloodshed, his council wouldn't insist on immediate independence. It wants the United Nations to send observers to East Timor, followed by a U.N. peacekeeping force.
``We need some kind of transition period to prepare East Timor for independence,'' said Constancio Pinto, acting U.N. representative of the National Council.
Pinto said a transition period from one to five years was needed; Carrascalao said the transition should be three to five years. Both activists said a referendum is crucial.
By the end of Monday's talks, Carrascalao said, the resistance groups expect the abandonment of the autonomy plan and negotiations on a timetable for East Timor's independence.
In Indonesia, Col. Tono Suratman, the military chief in East Timor, said today that Indonesian security forces in the territory had recruited 1,000 men to help maintain order. The announcement was likely to fuel accusations that Indonesia is arming East Timorese who oppose independence.
He said the recruits would not be trained to fight pro-independence groups but would instead serve as security guards to help law enforcement officials. He did not say whether they would be armed.