Subject: Interview: Timor's Belo critical of UN on refugees

INTERVIEW-Timor's Belo critical of UN on refugees

By Joanne Collins

DILI, East Timor, Jan 7 (Reuters) - East Timor's spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo criticised the U.N. on Friday for dragging its heels in bringing home thousands of refugees stuck in Indonesian West Timor.

In an interview with Reuters, the Nobel Peace Laureate also said the United Nations had relied too much on the Church for help.

``In Rwanda in one week they saved one million people. Why here after months are there still more than 100,000 refugees in West Timor?'' he said.

``And why are they always asking the bishop to write letters, to make films? Is the bishop more powerful than the United Nations?''

Speaking from his partially-destroyed Dili residence, Belo said it was more than four months since nearly 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forced from their homes and all those who wished to return should have done so by now.

The United Nations estimates that more than 125,000 East Timorese, who fled the territory when violence erupted following last August's independence ballot result, have since returned.

The world body has shown videos of Bishop Belo and other East Timorese leaders in West Timor camps to encourage people to return but say their efforts are being thwarted by pro-Jakarta militias waging a campaign of intimidation and misinformation.


Belo said the Catholic Church had been unfairly burdened with responsibility in the aftermath of the destruction, especially education.

``First, I must underline that you can't pass all the responsibility to the Church...We have a role to fulfill, we have our schools and naturally, since we don't have banks, we don't have financial power.

``It's the responsibility of the local take the responsibility for all aspects of life.''

Belo vowed that the Catholic Church -- the main religion in the former Portuguese colony -- would support the people.

``During the Portuguese time the Church was there. During the Indonesian time the Church was the same and now the Church will be present and preach the same values of the gospel -- justice, peace and reconciliation -- and try to work together with the social organisations.''


He expressed concern about the rise in youth violence on Dili's streets in recent weeks.

``This is the responsibility of all the organisations present in East Timor but first, naturally, to those who administrate this territory. What proposals do they present, what means do they have if there are no jobs, no signs of reconstruction, no police, no order?''

Belo said he would like to think anything was possible for an independent East Timor in the 21st century, especially tourism.

``Somebody from the European Union, the World Bank have already decided tourism has a negative impact. But Spain, Greece, Italy...they live on tourism. Why not East Timor?''

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