Subject: KY: UN, E. Timorese clinch deal on coalition gov't

U.N., E. Timorese clinch deal on coalition gov't

Kyodo News

DILI, East Timor , June 23 --

U.N. administrators and East Timorese leaders have agreed to form a new coalition government by mid-July in which they will share political responsibility during the transition to independence, a senior U.N. official said Friday.

"On July 15, it will become a coequal government -- half East Timorese, half international," Peter Galbraith, head of the Office of Political, Constitutional and Electoral Affairs of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), told Kyodo News.

"It'll have a cabinet just like in any democratic country, with four East Timorese cabinet members and four international cabinet members," he said, adding that each cabinet member will oversee a variety of departments.

Galbraith said East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao will not play a formal role in the new government, but will be consulted informally by U.N. chief administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello before any decisions are made, as has been the case thus far.

"All of us would be very eager for him to assume a position, but as it stands now, it appears he will not have a formal role, by his own choice," Galbraith said.

"I think he himself thinks that it is best if he stayed outside of the process. But his role as the unifying force among the East Timorese people, as the country's preeminent leader, of course, is going to be a factor."

The agreement is part of what de Mello has termed the "accelerated Timorization of the East Timorese administration," as the former Portuguese colony, which was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years, moves toward full independence in one to two years' time.

Galbraith said the U.N. will retain the internal security, justice, finance, and political, constitutional and electoral affairs portfolios as the U.N. cannot abdicate Security Council-mandated responsibilities until East Timor 's independence.

He said Timorese will take the "big-ticket" portfolios -- economic affairs, infrastructure, social affairs and internal administration.

Galbraith said the cabinet will be appointed by de Mello rather than elected, though he will consult first with the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), an umbrella group of pro-independence parties headed by Gusmao.

In a separate interview with UNTAET Radio, broadcast Friday, Galbraith said the Timorese ministers will be political figures representing a broad range of parties, rather than specialists in their areas of responsibility.

But he said the various departments underneath them will ultimately be headed by East Timorese chosen for their expertise, selected in a competitive process.

While de Mello will continue to wield "theoretical" power in East Timor , "he will be, as he has been, giving great deference to these institutions that are being developed."

The joint governance proposal was announced June 2 amid mounting criticism that UNTAET had been making decisions and setting priorities without sufficiently consulting the Timorese, and that it was failing to place enough Timorese in key positions.

In making the proposal, de Mello said that with a shared government, UNTAET would no longer "continue to be the punching bag," but would instead "share the punches" with the Timorese.

Galbraith told Kyodo that UNTAET initially offered the Timorese leadership a majority of the portfolios, but the Timorese counter-proposed that they be equally divided.

Timorese currently have a say in the decision-making process through the National Consultative Council, which includes 11 Timorese and four UNTAET members.

Galbraith said the council, which he described as a "quasi-legislature, quasi-cabinet," will be expanded, reconstituted, renamed and made more open and transparent.

"It will change into being much more of a purely legislative-type organization. But it won't quite be a legislature, because it will not have been elected."

Its 33 members will include 13 representatives from the territory's 13 districts, seven from CNRT parties, three from non-CNRT parties, and one each from 10 different social groups, including business, labor, farmers and religious groups.

National elections are tipped to be held as early as April next year, followed by the adoption of a Constitution and declaration of independence.

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