Subject: AP: U.N. can do more to help, says Alkiteri

U.N. can do more to help, says East Timorese politician By DANIEL COONEY

05/20/2000 Associated Press Newswires

DILI, East Timor (AP) - The massive floods sweeping through West Timor may prompt more East Timorese refugees to return to their homeland, the U.N. chief representative in East Timor said Saturday.

The floods have claimed at least 125 lives and displaced over 100,000 people, many of them East Timorese refugees who fled to the Indonesian side of the border after violence broke out last September.

"Maybe they will now think of returning home to East Timor ," said Sergio Vieria de Mello, the world body's top administrator in Dili, East Timor 's capital.

De Mello rejected criticism from Fretilin, East Timor 's leading political party, that the U.N. was not doing enough to help the plight of displaced people. He said aid was reaching those most in need, and that the situation was stabilizing.

"They could be doing a lot more," said Marii Alkateri, Fretilin's assistant secretary general. Alkateri said food and emergency supplies were not getting through to the worst-affected areas.

U.N. officials said they could not confirm reports from Indonesian authorities that the death toll had reached 148, with more than 120 still missing.

Most are the victims are believed to be members of the families of pro-Indonesian militiamen who rampaged through East Timor after its voters opted to secede from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored referendum on Aug. 30.

A quarter of a million people fled the campaign of terror unleashed by the paramilitaries in the aftermath of the vote. Most returned soon after the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, but about 90,000 still remain in camps in Indonesian-held West Timor .

The United Nations is administering East Timor in its transition to full independence. The former Portuguese colony, which was occupied by Indonesia in 1975, is expected to become independent within the next two years.

East Timorese leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao also called on the remaining refugees to return home, saying they did not need to fear retribution from local inhabitants.

"Let all the East Timorese still in West Timor come home. Let us all live as brothers and sisters," he said.

Gusmao was speaking before a crowd of 3,000 people at an emotional ceremony commemorating Fretilin's 26th anniversary.

In villages near the eastern side of the border, waters had begun to recede. Several villagers told journalists who toured the area in a chartered helicopter that their food supplies were sufficient for the short term.

In West Timor , a mass burial was held for 81 people who died in floods affecting Central and West Malaka, in the southern Belu region, reports in the Indonesian media said Saturday.

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