Subject: Gusmao tactics provoke UN attack

The Australian 30 August 2000

Gusmao tactics provoke UN attack

By Brian Woodley

EAST Timor's transitional administrator has attacked a threat by Xanana Gusmao to send Falintil forces into Indonesian territory to stop militia operating from West Timor.

"We should not behave like the militia do," Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Secretary-General's special representative, told Sydney journalists yesterday when asked about Mr Gusmao's threat.

Mr Gusmao, who is likely to emerge as head of an independent East Timor government by the end of next year, was reported as having told the US magazine Newsweek: "My opinion as a former guerilla leader is this: if (the militia) come from West Timor to fight us in East Timor, then we should strike back and destroy them inside West Timor."

Mr de Mello said: "I have not heard Xanana say that. Certainly he has not said that to me. It doesn't sound like Xanana and certainly we would discourage the Falintil from attempting to do that.

"The inviolability of international borders is a sacrosanct principle of international law – which the militia are violating because they are thugs and because they have nothing else to offer except the language of force and violence.

"We should not make the same mistake from our side."

Speaking by satellite link at a function to mark the anniversary of East Timor's vote for independence and to thank Australia – "our strongest ally in the region" – Mr de Mello said the province was "resurrecting from its ashes, literally".

While all but $US17 million ($30 million) of the administration's 2000-01 budget of $US60 million had come from donor nations, East Timor's resilience was showing through.

Agriculture this season would yield up to three-quarters of pre-1999 harvests. And, with economic, legal and other basic frameworks taking shape, the UN was looking to make progress on the constitutional and political front, Mr de Mello said.

"I believe it's time to allow political forces here to organise themselves, to register and begin to function in the open. It will also give us some time to monitor their respect of fundamental democratic principles before we enter the electoral phase, which should lead to general elections around this time in the year 2001."

Mr de Mello said the first vote would elect a constituent assembly to debate, amend and promulgate a draft constitution. The text would be prepared after "a very broad popular consultation, all the way down to the grassroots, so it reflects the hopes and aspirations of the Timorese people and we avoid mistakes made in other countries, not least in Fiji".

The constitution would precede a second election to form the government of independent East Timor "towards the end of next year".

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