Subject: UNWire: E Timor Needs Continued Assistance, Security Council Told

East Timor Needs Continued Assistance, Security Council Told

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

By Jim Wurst U.N. Wire

UNITED NATIONS — East Timor yesterday appealed to the U.N. Security Council to continue assistance to the nascent nation through the U.N. Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), saying the country is still a work in progress in need of assistance in developing its economy and justice system and settling land border issues with Indonesia and its maritime border with Australia, the latter linked to rights to offshore oil and gas reserves.

The council was meeting ahead of a vote expected on Friday to extend UNMISET for one more year, but with reduced numbers in the military, police and civil affairs components of the mission. There was no disagreement among the council members that the mission should be extended for a final year, the questions were what the new mandate should be and what mix of military and police personnel were necessary. Timorese officials had said they were concerned the drawdown of troops was too rapid.

"I must emphasize the need for substantial and continuing support from our development partners to overcome the formidable challenges before our new nation," said East Timor's State Minister Ana Pessoa Pinto. "All efforts at enlightened governance cannot succeed unless we can also advance economically and show visible improvements in the quality of life and the creation of jobs."

The mandate for UNMISET expires May 20. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in February recommended that the mission be extended for a one-year "consolidation phase," with deep cuts in the number of military and civilian personnel assigned to the mission. In a second report last month, Annan wrote that the new mandate should focus on three concerns — assisting "core administrative structures critical to the viability" and administration of justice; continuing development of the national police force; and maintaining security within the country and along its borders.

The U.N. envoy to East Timor, Kamalesh Sharma, told the council, "A robust exit strategy to ensure sustainability will be the major challenge during the consolidation phase of the mission." He said it will be important to further establish "a healthy and functioning justice sector" and "the progressive handover of policing responsibility" to Timorese police.

A key concern is how well the Timorese can handle law enforcement and trials for violent crimes committed in the years preceding independence. "I agree that much needs to be done to establish a society based on the respect for the rule of law," including the creation of an "impartial, accountable and responsive" police force and judiciary, Pessoa said. "I am sure you will appreciate that these goals notwithstanding, we have worked within a very compressed timeframe," she said. "The results must be considered in this perspective."

The United Kingdom and Australia announced a new program to develop the Timorese police force and justice system as UNMISET draws down.

Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg of Brazil, speaking as the chair of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, which includes East Timor, said, "The progress achieved so far must be consolidated into a stable (East Timor), with improved political, social and economic conditions." However, he said, support "in a large number of critical areas is still required to underpin the exercise of sovereignty by the East Timorese," such as security and settling offshore oil rights.

Sardenberg said Angola and Brazil will introduce a resolution this week extending the mission.


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