Subject: AFP: UN sees itself in East Timor well after independence next year

Also: UN Sees E. Timor Declaring Independence At End Of 2001

Agence France-Presse (AFP)

UN sees itself in East Timor well after independence next year

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 28 (AFP) - The UN chief administrator in East Timor said on Tuesday that the territory should become independent next year, but will need UN protection and financial support long after that.

Sergio Vieira de Mello said that, barely 12 months since the UN took over East Timor after it was laid waste by militias opposed to a break from Indonesia, "we are now well advanced on the transition to independence."

He told a public session of the Security Council that a general election would be held, "most likely in the middle of next year," for an assembly to draft a new constitution.

The transitional cabinet, which was set up in July, will start drafting regulations for the registration of political parties this week or next, he said.

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) should be able to transfer power to a legitimately elected government in 2001, he said.

"But there is much more to transition than handing over political power," he added.

He noted that, at a donors' conference last week, Australia and Portugal had made "generous commitments to play the lead role" in helping to set up and train an East Timor Defence Force.

Portugal, the former colonial power, abandoned East Timor in 1975, leaving a vacuum which Indonesia was quick to fill.

Australia is by far the largest contributor to UNTAET, with 1,580 of the 7,710 troops currently deployed by the UN in East Timor. The force also includes 1,420 civilian police and 167 military observers.

"The objective of having a fully trained first battalion of the defence force in place by late 2001 is now well on track," Vieira de Mello said.

But the force was not expected to be at full strength until the end of 2003 and "clearly, a UN peacekeeping presence will be required in some form until at least that date," he said.

Vieira de Mello said he would go to Brussels next week to meet European Union and World Bank officials to drum up financial support for East Timor from international donors.

He said that UNTAET -- which has an annual budget of about 344 million dollars paid for from peacekeeping assessments -- should be given the flexibility to support the East Timorese budget.

"It is frankly absurd, as a transitional administrator, to preside over a UN mission that spends 10 assessed dollars on itself for every voluntary dollar spent administering the country for which the council made us responsible," he said.

rh/smb AFP


Associated Press November 28, 2000

UN Sees E. Timor Declaring Independence At End Of 2001

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The United Nations expects that East Timor will declare its independence toward "the tail-end of 2001," the U.N. administrator for the territory told the Security Council on Tuesday.

The key event before independence will be the election of an East Timorese constituent assembly that will draft and adopt a constitution, Sergio Vieira de Mello said.

His briefing to the council provided the most comprehensive scenario for the U.N. handover of power to the East Timorese, following their overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia in an August, 1999 referendum.

He said the creation of a transitional Cabinet in July and the inauguration of a 36-member Timorese National Council in October marked "a significant new phase" in power-sharing between the U.N. administration and East Timorese representing all areas, parties and sectors of society.

"It is my firm view that a successful transition requires that we gradually put executive and legislative power into the hands of the East Timorese, so that the day of independence marks the culmination of a smooth transition, and not the point of a sudden transfer of power," Vieira de Mello said.

The political calendar for the final transition has been the subject of intense discussion with the Cabinet, the National Council, and other East Timorese leaders, and a number of "common understandings" have emerged, he said.

"It is not, however, possible to give precise dates at this time, save that we are likely looking towards East Timor declaring its independence in the tail-end of 2001," he said.

The general election for a constituent assembly will most likely take place in the middle of next year and its primary job will be to adopt a constitution, he said.

"Once the constitution is adopted, the constituent assembly would be sworn in as the first parliament," he said. "Depending on the process set out in the constitution, elections for a president (assuming a presidential system is chosen), the appointment of a government, and the declaration of independence would all take place in the last quarter of 2001."

Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, who assumed command of guerrillas fighting the Indonesians during the 1980s, is widely expected to become East Timor's first democratically elected president next year.

By December 2001, the United Nations hopes to complete the investigation of all documented cases of serious human rights violations during the rampage that followed the 1999 independence referendum, he said. The United Nations also remains "extremely anxious" for Indonesia to start trying those accused of similar crimes as soon as possible, he added.

Vieira de Mello stressed that the U.N. role will not end on independence day.

The organization must find and train qualified East Timorese to run the country for the transition to be a success, he said. And an independent East Timor will also need U.N. support for technical and security matters as well as in many areas of public administration, he said.

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