|Subject: Reuters: U.N. says threats won't delay
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 02:54:35 EDT
U.N. says threats won't delay East Timor vote
By Tim Johnston
DILI, East Timor, Aug 16 (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Monday that it remained concerned about security in East Timor ahead of an August 30 ballot on independence, but would not let ``rogue elements or hoodlums'' delay the vote.
Jamsheed Marker, the personal representative of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said that despite signs of improved security there had been some threats that United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) members would be targetted on polling day.
``But UNAMET is not going to be put off course one degree by any rogue elements or hoodlums. We have a job to do and we will do it,'' he said.
Marker said he had received assurances from both pro-independence and pro-Indonesia groups of their commitment to peace.
``These are very positive elements which give us the confidence that we can go ahead with the process over the next two weeks,'' he said.
``But we are also realistic enough to know that in terms of the harsh realities of what has happened especially over the last 30 years, the ride would not be as smooth as we would have wished or liked.''
Marker recently held a series of meetings with both Indonesian and East Timorese political leaders in Jakarta.
Marker was instrumental in negotiating the original agreement that laid the groundwork for the referendum. He said he felt a moral obligation to go ahead with the vote.
``The fact that so many East Timorese came out to register gives us a moral obligation of an enormous order,'' he said.
``We are committed to give them the chance to express their views and the Secretary-General is determined to let nothing get in the way of that.''
The referendum will give the former Portuguese colony the choice between wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia or starting towards independence.
Campaigning for the ballot got off to a peaceful start on Saturday morning when some 600 supporters of autonomy gathered in a field on the outskirts of Dili.
On Sunday about 5,000 people held a peaceful rally at the opening of a pro-independence National Council for Timorese Resistance office in central Dili.
There have been fears that the campaign could raise the political temperature, sparking another plunge into the violence that has killed dozens of people and displaced tens of thousands more since January.
In Jakarta, Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie said in a state of the nation speech that independence for East Timor would not damage the unity of Indonesia, as many Indonesians fear.
``We are sure that whatever the decision taken by the people of East Timor, the unity and the completeness of the Republic of Indonesia will be maintained. That is a historical fact,'' he said.
Leaders of the rival political factions, including the pro-Jakarta groups that have been blamed for much of the trouble, have taken steps to avoid potential sources of conflict.
They have signed a U.N.-authored code of conduct that guarantees freedom of speech and renounces physical and verbal violence. They have also agreed not to hold simultaneous political meetings.