|Subject: IPS: Situation Improving Says UN
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 12:15:08 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
POLITICS-EAST TIMOR: Situation Improving, says UN
By Farhan Haq
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 (IPS) - East Timor had experienced relative calm since the start of registration of voters for the August self- determination ballot, according to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In a report released Wednesday, Annan said there had been ''marked progress'' in UN operations in East Timor since voter registration began Jul. 16. The turnout had been high and only a few clashes had been reported between Timorese groups favouring independence and pro-Indonesia militias.
Ann said the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was fully operational, with deployment of UN personnel throughout East Timor nearly complete and more than 200 international observers for the vote had been accredited.
''Another encouraging development is that there have been no further incidents in which UNAMET staff or property have been attacked or seriously threatened,'' Annan said.
In previous weeks, pro-Indonesia militias assaulted or threatened international aid workers and UN officials in the western towns of Maliana and Liquica. But Annan noted that the voter registration process had ''proceeded relatively peacefully so far.''
Annan's upbeat report came just two weeks after Ian Martin and Francesc Vendrell, the two top UN officials in East Timor, warned Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Wiranto of the need to improve security in the territory.
At that time, UN officials were skeptical about Indonesian cooperation with security needs for the August vote, in which East Timorese voters are to decide whether to opt for autonomy under Indonesian rule or to seek independence.
Annan and other officials had warned that, if Jakarta did not meet its commitments to maintain secure conditions for the vote - expected for Aug. 21 or 22 - the United Nations could delay voter registration.
Voting already has been delayed from the initial scheduled date of Aug. 8.
Indonesian officials responded to the UN meetings by stepping up their support for the vote. Last week, President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie sent 14 Cabinet ministers to East Timor in what Annan deemed a sign of Indonesia's commitment to the vote.
Since then, Annan added, Indonesian security forces had ''undertaken to rein in the militias by disarming persons who brandish arms in public, arresting and prosecuting those who carry out, incite or threaten violence, and closing down militia roadblocks.''
Indonesian commanders issued orders requiring military personnel to behave impartially and not to carry arms, except for when they were carrying out official duties, he noted.
With violence subsiding and East Timorese registering to vote in large numbers, UN officials believed that voter registration efforts were on track. The UN spokesman in East Timor, David Wimhurst, said Wednesday that UNAMET was on target for full registration by Aug. 4.
Despite such signs, the US House of Representatives adopted Wednesday an amendment to a State Department authorisation bill, calling on President Bill Clinton's administration to intensify efforts to limit militia violence in East Timor.
The measure required that the White House report to Congress within 21 days on its efforts ''to ensure a stable and secure environment in East Timor.''
The amendment was the latest in a series of measures passed by Congress to place greater oversight on Indonesia, a US ally, as its forces establish security prior to the August vote.
''Congress has made clear that a more forceful policy is needed if East Timor's vote is to be free and fair,'' said Lynn Fredriksson of the East Timor Action Network, a US-based pro- independence (sic) group.
[Posters note: ETAN supports self-determination, not any particular outcome. It is for the East Timorese, not outside groups, to decide.]
''We expect the Clinton administration to take the necessary steps to press Indonesia to live up to its commitments,'' she added after the House passed the amendment by voice vote, without opposition. (END/IPS/fah/mk/99)