Subject: RT: U.N. chief refuses to set date for East Timor vote
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:17:20 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Tuesday July 27, 12:47 am Eastern Time

U.N. chief refuses to set date for East Timor vote

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 (Reuters) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan said voter registration could continue in East Timor but sporadic violence still prevented him from making a final decision on holding a ballot on the territory's future.

The United Nations is responsible for organizing a vote that may be held on Aug. 21 or 22 in the former Portuguese colony, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975. East Timorese can choose between independence or autonomy within Indonesia.

Diplomats said Annan might delay the vote to a later date in August because of security concerns and logistic considerations but he had not yet made a decision.

In a letter to the Security Council late on Monday, Annan said security conditions had improved but intimidation was still prevalent, mainly by a militia opposed to independence.

``I therefore intend to continue registration on the understanding that Indonesian authorities will work with the U.N. Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to achieve the further necessary improvements in the security situation and urgently address the problem of internal displacement,'' he wrote.

He said the completion of registration and the election process ``will depend on my being satisfied that these improvements are achieved and sustained.''

Security conditions required for ``a largely technical exercise such as registration are notably less stringent than those which will be necessary for campaigning in the run-up to the consultation (balloting),'' he said.

Annan has delayed the vote once before and started voter registration three days late. He said 10 days ago he would give the council notice midway through the registration process whether it should continue -- the purpose of his letter.

Violence has escalated since Indonesian President B.J. Habibie said in January that he would let East Timor go if voters rejected autonomy. Indonesia's annexation of the territory has not been recognized by the international community.

Many people have been driven from their homes or have fled to avoid intimidation by the militia. Some observers estimate as many as 60,000 people are displaced. There are 400,000 eligible voters in the territory.

In his letter, Annan said a serious consequence of the inadequate security situation was ``the continuing inability of tens of thousands of internally displaced people to return to their homes in safety.''

He said the largest number of displaced people were from areas controlled by the pro-Jakarta militia.

Annan said U.N. staff members and local authorities were cooperating in allowing the displaced to return home and register to vote ``but further action to bring armed groups under control is essential.''

He said 200 registration centers throughout East Timor had opened, with only sporadic security problems. In the first 10 days, 239,893 East Timorese have registered, 233,716 of them in East Timor itself and the remainder at centers abroad. Annan said there was ``greater cooperation now being shown by the Indonesian authorities, in particular the police, with their UNAMET counterparts.''

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