Subject: RT: UN sees East Timor elections end of 2001

Also: AFP: Rebuilding East Timor , a slow task, but on track: officials

U.N. sees East Timor elections end of 2001. By Sarah Cheung

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 (Reuters) - East Timor will hold general elections to select the ravaged territory's first government in the second half of 2001, a top United Nations official said on Wednesday.

"It would be difficult to postpone till after year 2001, so we will have general elections in East Timor in the second half of 2001," said Sergio Viera de Mello, head of the U.N transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Speaking at a lecture in the Malaysian capital, de Mello said he and Xanana Gusmao, head of East Timor 's main political group, are often asked when East Timor will have a new constitution, political parties and elections.

"My reply is the same as Xanana Gusmao. Right now we are in a state of calamity. We are facing an emergency. It would be imprudent to launch a political face so soon in the interim phase."

UNTAET plans to start drafting a constitution, in consultation with grassroots groups, but it was unrealistic to expect political parties would be established before March or April of next year, he said.

East Timor is currently under United Nations administration during the transition from former Indonesian territory to independent statehood.

The territory descended into chaos last year when pro-Indonesia militias embarked on a vengeful campaign of killing and destruction, angered by an August referendum overwhelmingly in support of ending Jakarta's rule of the former Portuguese colony.

De Mello said the unity of East Timor 's main political group, the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), was crucial to the process of setting up the constitution, de Mello said.

The CNRT brings together all East Timor 's traditionally fractious political groups and is expected to play a major role in the territory's move to full independence.

"I hope we can preserve the unity of CNRT throughout 2000," de Mello said. "It should not be dissolved."

CRITICS SLAMMED De Mello hit back at critics who say the process of reconstruction in East Timor has been hopelessly slow.

"I do not share easy, flippant comments made by tourists who come and spend two days in East Timor and then pass judgements that we, the United Nations, are too slow."

De Mello pointed to the progress made with the World Bank in establishing a six-month plan for East Timor as well as the approval of a $29.8 million loan from the Asian Development Bank for roads, ports and power reconstruction on Tuesday.

"Never before did the international finance institutions and the World Bank work as fast as we have in East Timor in bringing about actual results for the East Timorese ."

De Mello said he understood the impatience of the East Timorese and that they in turn were realising what a huge task the United Nations faced.

"They see it cannot be rebuilt as quickly as it was destroyed. I only wish those foreign visitors who write these kind of articles would also understand."

More than 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forced across the border during last year's violence. The U.N. estimates 149,000 people have returned since October.

=== Rebuilding East Timor , a slow task, but on track: officials

04/26/2000 Agence France-Presse

HONG KONG, April 26 (AFP) - The international community must be prepared to provide further assistance to speed up the rebuilding of East Timor , senior officials overseeing the territory's reconstruction said in a newspaper Wednesday.

The slow task of nation-building in East Timor , formerly controlled by Indonesia, had only just begun, independence leader Xanana Gusmao and Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration there, wrote in the International Herald Tribune.

Creating a country from scratch will be a monumental task, they said.

"It will require the full support of the international community," they said, highlighting the almost complete absence of administrative organs in East Timor .

"After the horrors of the past, East Timor has a just claim to an international commitment to concrete assistance, rapid response and respect for the aspirations to self-determination."

The officials, however, said a close working relationship had emerged between UN administrators and East Timorese leaders through the workings of the joint policy-making forum, the National Consultative Council.

"The East Timorese already are architects of an administration that will serve the country well after independence," they said.

Pro-Jakarta militia activity along the border with West Timor has subsided and the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled following violence after the ballot for independence are slowly returning, they said.

There were still many challenges facing East Timor 's new architects, they said, including nutritional deficiencies, limited access to drinking water and faulty electricity supplies.

Nevertheless they pointed to the normalization of ties with Indonesia, internal reconciliation, the establishment of a police force and judicial system and World Bank-funded housing and education programmes as positive signs that East Timor is rising from the ashes.

The ballot on East Timor independence last August was followed by widespread violence and destruction by pro-Jakarta militia.

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