Subject: KY: E. Timor independence next year too early: Belo

E. Timor independence next year too early: Belo News

TOKYO, Sept. 15 (Kyodo) -- East Timor's spiritual leader, Dili Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, said Friday independence next year would be ''too early'' for the territory.

In a press briefing in Tokyo, Belo said, ''It is necessary to prepare for independence. We don't know yet about our Constitution, our central bank. I think is it better to wait one to two years.''

Belo, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, said the East Timorese ''now enjoy more freedom'' despite poor conditions in the territory.

On Aug. 30, the U.N.-administered East Timor marked the first anniversary of its vote for independence from Indonesia.

Belo said the National Council of Timorese Resistance, an umbrella organization of pro-independence movements and activists inside and outside East Timor, and the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor apparently consider that East Timor ''should be independent at the end next year.''

Belo said there is a need to guarantee security on the border with West Timor should the 8,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force withdraw from the territory following a declaration of independence in one year.

Security in West Timor has deteriorated following the Sept. 6 killing of three U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees aid workers there.

Belo also asked Indonesian authorities to fulfill their promise of returning some 120,000 Timorese refugees now in Indonesian-administered West Timor to their home villages in East Timor as soon as possible.

Belo is in Tokyo to deliver an address to a two-day international forum on refugees and migrants organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan.

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