Subject: AFP: UN meets top East Timor rebels as decision on autonomy vote
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:16:00 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

UN meets top East Timor rebels as decision on autonomy vote awaited

DILI, East Timor, July 26 (AFP) - The United Nations held its first talks with anti-Indonesia rebel commanders in East Timor Monday as the troubled territory awaited a UN decision on whether to hold a vote on its future next month.

A spokesman for the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) said a meeting between Brigadier General Rezaqul Haider and rebel commander Taur Matank Ruak was the highest level of its kind.

"A UNAMET team led by Brigadier General Haider went with representatives of the Commission on Peace and Stability to meet Falintil commanders," he said.

"They discussed the intention to undertake cantonment of their forces and Falintil participation in the Commission on Peace and Stability and arrangements for registration.

"There were useful mutual discussions and UNAMET envisages these dicussions continuing," the spokesman added, without giving further details.

The UN military group were believed to have flown by helicopter to the meeting somewhere in mountains outside East Timor's capital Dili.

The Falintil is the armed wing of the Council for East Timorese Resistance headed by jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, currently under house arrest in Jakarta.

The Council on Peace and Stability is designed to bring the two warring sides in East Timor -- pro and anti-independence -- together before and during the vote to minimize violence.

Lack of disarmament on either side is believed to be one of the major factors weighing in favor of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan delaying the vote from its scheduled date in late August.

Indonesia has said it may let go of the former Portuguese colony that it annexed in 1976 if the East Timorese vote to reject an offer of autonomy under Jakarta.

But Monday it was unsure whether the vote would go ahead as scheduled in the third week of August, with a decision expected from Annan later Monday.

Annan, under the terms of an agreement reached between Portugal and Indonesia at the UN in May, must decide whether security has been sufficiently tightened to allow the ballot to go ahead.

He has already postponed the start of the 20-day registration period by two weeks, citing pro-Indonesian militia intimidation and violence against pro-independence factions.

In Dili Monday the tense calm in the city was shattered by a brawl between pro- and anti-independentists in the central market place, which left several people injured, witnesses said.

There were unconfirmed reports that one man was killed in the fight which involved members of the Aitarak pro-Indonesia militia.

Under the terms of May's accord, the Indonesian police are charged with ensuring security for the polls.

Referring to the arrival of 900 extra police officers in Dili Monday, police spokesman Captain Widodo (eds: one name) said: "These police will help bring more intensive security to East Timor."

Another 400 were due to arrive Tuesday.

Earlier Monday UNAMET spokesman Hiro Ueki said two of the 200 voter registration centers in the territory had to close down Sunday because of problems with pro-Indonesian militia.

Some 20 to 30 militia arrived at the two centers in Balibo, and tried to force UN officials to register them with one document each instead of two as required, he said.

"The district electoral officers refused and the militias threatened to return with additional men and destroy the registration center. As a result of this threat, the registration closed at midday," Ueki said.

But there was no violence and the militia were unarmed, he added.

Ueki said UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) chief Ian Martin was Monday finalizing his assessment report on the security situation, which was expected to be sent to New York later in the day.

Separately, the independent three-person election commission assigned to UNAMET said it was sending its own report directly to Annan.

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