Subject: RT: UN Envoy Optimistic About East Timor Ballot
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 08:59:12 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Thursday, June 24, 1999

UN Envoy Optimistic About East Timor Ballot

By Tim Johnston

DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - A special U.N. envoy to East Timor Thursday expressed optimism that a vote on the violence-racked territory's future would be carried out successfully.

``I think the process is well on its way, and I am more than reasonably optimistic about the outcome,'' retired Pakistani diplomat Jamsheed Marker told reporters on his arrival in Dili.

Marker said that although the United Nations still had concerns about security in East Timor, he had received assurances in meetings with senior Indonesian government figures in Jakarta, including President B.J. Habibie and armed forces chief General Wiranto.

``We have expressed our concern about the security situation, but I have had very credible assurances in my talks in Jakarta over the past few days,'' said Marker, the special representative of U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan.

``I am certain they are talking steps which will yield results.''

Annan Tuesday announced a two-week delay in the vote, which had originally been scheduled for August 8. He cited security and logistical problems as the reasons.

Since January, when Indonesia abruptly reversed decades of adamant opposition to independence for East Timor, dozens have been killed and tens of thousands displaced by armed militias intent on forcing people to vote to remain part of Indonesia.

Although security has improved in the capital Dili since the arrival of the United Nations two months ago, militias are still very active in some areas, particularly the west.

Marker had high praise for an independent reconciliation process being organized by East Timor's two Roman Catholic Bishops, Nobel Prize winner Carlos Belo and Basilio Nascimento.

``I think it is a very important part of this process. They seem to have come to grips with some of the major issues and there seems to be a lot of give and take,'' he said. ``The atmosphere seems to be very good and they appear to be coming to some sort of understanding.''

The two bishops left Dili Thursday for Jakarta, where they will hold another round of meetings with the leaders of East Timor's pro-independence and pro-Indonesia groups.

Nascimento has said the agenda includes reducing tension and getting all parties to agree to accept the result of the ballot. The parties had also been asked to look at different scenarios based on which option the East Timorese choose in August.

They are being offered a choice between wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia, or independence.

``The problem is none of them wants to be considered a losing group. Our focus and our efforts are to bring them to realize that in the future there will be no winners and no losers,'' Nascimento said.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move never recognized by the United Nations.

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