Subject: RT: E.Timor registration nearly finished as vote nears

E.Timor registration nearly finished as vote nears

By John Ruwitch

JAKARTA, June 22 (Reuters) - Tiny East Timor will finish registering its population on Saturday, a key step in preparing the impoverished nation-in-waiting for its first election in August, the United Nations said.

Some 773,000 of the territory's estimated 813,000 people have registered in the first official population tally which will be used to compile a list of eligible voters.

"With this information we can build a database with which to design development strategies and give critical data to the Independent Election Commission," the head of civil registration for the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), Peter Rimmele, said in a statement.

The U.N.-administered territory voted in 1999 to cede from Indonesia after 23 years of often brutal rule.

On August 30, East Timorese voters will pick a Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution and begin a political and administrative hand-over that the U.N. expects to result in full independence by early 2002.

"It depends on the results (of the election)...but we expect that over the first months of next year independence will be declared," Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for UNTAET, told Reuters by telephone from the East Timor capital, Dili.

The U.N. authority hopes to complete a final tally of the registration results sometime next week.

Security concerns ahead of the vote have weighed heavily on the territory, traumatised by Jakarta-backed gangs who went on a rampage after most of the population opted in 1999 for independence.

The violence forced hundreds of thousands across the border into Indonesian West Timor where many have said the threats have continued.

Reis said there had been isolated reports of intimidation during the registration in two of the territory's 13 districts by a radical group of independence activists suspicious of the motives behind the registration.

"There are (security concerns) in the people's minds, definitely. That's the one concern that we believe all the Timorese have," Reis said.

But she said the U.N.'s 8,000 peacekeepers and East Timor's more than 2,000 police would prevent violence and ensure peaceful elections.

"There are no signs whatsoever that there will be trouble. It's more a psychological thing...but we don't expect any kind of wave of violence."

The electoral commission has so far recognised 12 political parties out of 15 which have applied.

Campaigning starts on July 15.


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