Subject: AP: UN Wants Talks On E. Timor Constitution To Start In Sept

UN Wants Talks On E. Timor Constitution To Start In Sept


UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The chief U.N. official in East Timor said Thursday he expects talks to begin in September on what kind of government the territory will have when it becomes independent, possibly by late next year.

Elaborating on the timetable Thursday, Sergio Vieira de Mello said the United Nations, which is running East Timor during its transition to independence, plans to launch "a very broad consultative process" immediately after the former independence movement known as the Timorese National Council of Resistance holds its national congress in August.

"We would like the village chief, the sub-district assembly, the district council, to tell us how they feel" on important issues, including whether the country should have a presidential or parliamentary system, Vieira de Mello told a news conference.

At an open Security Council meeting on Tuesday, he predicted that elections in the former Indonesian territory - and possibly independence - will take place "at some point between Aug. 30 and December of the year 2001."

The process would involve taking an outline of a constitution to villagers throughout the territory to explain what the elements of a constitution are - and the different options that exist under each section, he said.

After gathering their responses, the tentative idea is to create a committee of Timorese and international constitutional experts to put together a preliminary text "which we hope could be ready by March-April next year," Vieira de Mello said.

The people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly last August 30 to break free from Indonesia's rule, sparking a rampage by anti-independence militias. Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, after Portugal hastily pulled out its 400-year-old colonial administration.

Vieira de Mello said "a few hundred extremists" continue to launch hit and run attacks from West Timor , which remains part of Indonesia.

The United States is pressing for cuts in the United Nations force in East Timor , which currently stands at about 8,500 troops.

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