Subject: AP/RT: Timor joins UN

Also - RT: East Timor Joins United Nations as 191st Member

East Timor, the world's youngest country, joins the United Nations

Fri Sep 27, 1:05 PM ET By RANJAN ROY, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - With its flag fluttering at the United Nations ( news - web sites) headquarters, East Timor ( news - web sites), the world's youngest country, formally joined the world body Friday after centuries of Portuguese rule and years of often brutal Indonesian occupation.

Diplomats from around the world applauded, rather than formally voted, to accept the tiny Southeast Asian nation as its 191st member as the country's president Xanana Gusmao vowed to build a "tolerant and just" society from a community wracked by decades of violence and suffering.

"Peace and stability are what our people yearn for," said Gusmao, as he was welcomed at a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall by ambassadors and the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ( news - web sites).

Gusmao, a 55-year-old poet and former guerrilla fighter who spent seven years in jail and under house arrest during Indonesian occupation, and Annan stood under an overcast sky as U.N. guards hoisted the black, red and yellow flag and the Timorese national anthem was played on a flute.

Gusmao said it was a moment of pride "as we see our colors gleaming with those of other 190 states."

"The honor of being here derives from representing the courage of women, the uplifted spirit of the sacrifice of men, the determination of the youths and the smile of the children of the crocodile nation," Gusmao said.

But he told reporters later he was now preoccupied with the daunting task of providing jobs, education and a better life to the 850,000 new citizens of East Timor, which was born May 20 as Asia's poorest country.

"I feel overwhelmed with the difficult challenges we have before us," he said.

The United Nations took over the administration of East Timor in 1999 after its people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored referendum.

The vote touched off a wave of violence by the Indonesian military and its militia supporters that destroyed much of East Timor.

The plebiscite that led to independence was followed by violence when Indonesia-backed militias slaughtered hundreds and burnt down large parts of the capital, Dili, before an international peacekeeping force restored order. Those scars still remain.

Gusmao said he did not want East Timor's success to be an example of other provinces in Indonesia, such as Papua and Aceh, where people were fighting to secede from Jakarta, which occupied East Timor for 24 years.

He said he did not want the disintegration of Indonesia, and urged independence groups in those regions to drop their armed struggles and strive for negotiations.

"Only a dialogue can produce good solutions that will satisfy all parties," he said.

Indonesia has given the rebels in Aceh until December to accept a proposal for autonomy. After that, it has said it will launch an offensive aimed at crushing them.

On the first day of its membership, East Timor participated in a secret ballot that saw Germany, Pakistan, Spain, Chile and Angola voted on to the Security Council for two-year terms beginning in January 2003.

Germany and Spain will formally replace Ireland and Norway in the Western European seats. Pakistan will take the Asian seat from Singapore, Chile will replace Colombia and Angola will represent Africa in place of Mauritius.

The council is made up of five permanent members — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — and 10 elected members.

Gusmao also drew the contours of his nation's foreign policy, promising to be a part of the global war against terrorism and backing the independence struggles of the Palestinians and people of Western Sahara.


East Timor Joins United Nations as 191st Member 
Fri Sep 27, 1:27 PM ET 

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The tiny Southeast Asian nation of East Timor ( news - web sites), the first country to be born in the 21st century, won a seat at the United Nations ( news - web sites) on Friday, swelling the world body's membership to 191.

Reuters Photo

The U.N. General Assembly welcomed East Timor -- which gained independence four months ago after breaking away from Indonesia following a bloody conflict -- as its newest member by acclamation.

"We wish the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) and its people peace, prosperity and every success in their future, and I warmly welcome Timor-Leste to the United Nations," General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic said after the vote.

President Xanana Gusmao told the chamber he represented "a small people of great dignity and extraordinary bravery in the past, driven by total commitment to the present, and filled with great confidence in the future."

"As it is told in our legend, we are today transformed and treading firmly on our land and sailing safely in our sea, for we are now identified as a sovereign and independent nation, as a member of the international community," Gusmao said.

Before independence, he spent 17 years as a resistance fighter against Indonesian rule and was jailed by Indonesia for seven years in the 1990s.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ( news - web sites), congratulating the young nation as its flag was raised at U.N. headquarters, said East Timor's long independence struggle "showed that greatness among nations is not a matter of size or resources."

"None of us who followed Timor-Leste's long struggle for self-determination can help being moved by this moment. None of us can forget the sacrifices made by the people or the courage of its leadership," Annan said.

The flag features a white star on a red, black and yellow background and symbolizes East Timor's quest for independence and peace.

The former Pacific territory joined the United Nations just weeks after Switzerland, which was approved on Sept. 10 after the Swiss voted to seek membership in a March referendum.

Independence for East Timor capped nearly three years of U.N. administration, centuries of colonization by Portugal and 24 years of occupation by Indonesia.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission remains active there as the country grooms new leaders to assume its responsibilities.

East Timor came under U.N. rule a few months after its people voted overwhelmingly in an August 1999 independence referendum to break free from Indonesia, which seized the territory in 1975 after Portugal pulled out.

About 1,000 East Timorese died after the independence vote when gangs organized by the Indonesian military went on a rampage, looting, killing and burning down buildings.

Australia, with Indonesia's consent, then sent in troops to establish order until the United Nations could organize a peacekeeping force to take over.

In a sign of their changing relationship, Gusmao noted that Indonesia, Australia and Portugal had joined in sponsoring East Timor's membership.

He told reporters after the General Assembly vote that he felt "overwhelmed by the difficult challenges before us" as well as proud of his country's achievements.

The half-island nation of 760,000 people is Asia's most impoverished, and the 20th poorest in the world.

Average life expectancy is 57 years, and East Timor's economy has been hard hit by a global coffee glut although the government hopes to spur development with the proceeds of offshore natural gas deposits.

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