|Subject: RT: Interview: U.N. plans early start on
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 08:00:35 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
Tuesday March 30,
Interview: U.N. plans early start on E.Timor ballot
By Paul Tait
SYDNEY, March 30 (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Tuesday it would need a presence in East Timor soon to begin preparations for a July autonomy ballot in the troubled Indonesian province.
``This is going to be a ballot conducted by the U.N. and therefore a U.N. electoral or political presence will be required in East Timor very soon if one is to carry out the necessary preparations...,'' said U.N. official Francesc Vendrell.
Vendrell, director of the U.N.'s Asia and Pacific division, met Australian officials on Monday and Tuesday after leading a mission to Indonesia and East Timor to prepare for the ballot.
Indonesia and Portugal agreed earlier in March to let the East Timorese decide whether they wanted autonomy or independence in a U.N.-organised direct ballot after Indonesian national elections on July 7.
``The United Nations intends to present a plan to the two parties which should enable the United Nations (to ensure) all the required conditions are met...for a popular consultation or universal Timorese adult suffrage,'' Vendrell told Reuters in an interview before leaving for New Zealand.
Vendrell said that under the U.N. plan all adult East Timorese should take part in a secret ballot to decide on autonomy or independence.
U.N.-sponsored talks between Indonesia and Portugal over East Timor's future have stumbled over the format of the autonomy ballot, with Jakarta refusing to sanction an open referendum.
Vendrell did not detail the type of U.N. presence required in East Timor to conduct the ballot, but added it was premature to describe it as a peacekeeping force.
Australia has said it is prepared to assist a U.N. operation in East Timor during and after the autonomy ballot, which could possibly include police and electoral officials.
Indonesia has offered autonomy to East Timor, the former Portuguese colony it invaded in 1975 and annexed the next year, a move not recognised by the United Nations.
But fighting between pro-independence and pro-Jakarta groups intensified in January after Indonesia said it could countenance full independence for East Timor.
Vendrell said the United Nations stay in East Timor would be determined by the outcome of the autonomy ballot.
``It would certainly have to stay until the results of the consultation are known, until we publish the results of the consultation,'' Vendrell said.
``Then it will be up to the parties to decide whether there should be some kind of interim U.N. presence,'' he said.
``If the East Timorese reject autonomy and there is a transition to independence, then during the period of transition I think a rather large U.N. role has been envisaged.''
Vendrell saw an important role for Australia, the only Western country to recognise Indonesian rule of East Timor and which has stepped up diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
``We would be relying on Australia among various countries in a support role,'' he said.
Vendrell said he would report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ahead of the next meeting on East Timor between Indonesia and Portugal on April 13-14.