Subject: AFP: Indon protest hundreds of Portuguese voters in East Timor ballot
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 09:52:30 -0400

Indonesia protest hundreds of Portuguese voters in East Timor ballot

JAKARTA, Aug 13 (AFP) - Indonesia's government has protested against the registration of hundreds of Portuguese to vote in the landmark UN-sponsored East Timorese referendum to determine the status of the territory, ministers said Friday.

The government is angry that 600 or so Portguese who are eligible to vote in the August 30 ballot -- have registered for the poll.

The Portuguese in question are eligible either because they were born in the enclave or are married to an East Timorese.

"There are Portuguese with no direct interest in East Timor ... but they coincidentally fufilled general requirements to participate in the popular consulation in East Timor only because they were born in East Timor," Indonesia's foreign ministry official Nugroho Wisnumurti, said after tripartite talks here.

Wisnumurti said he had raised Jakarta's complaint on the issue in a meeting of senior officials from Indonesia, Portugal and the United Nations.

But Portuguese chief delegate Fernandez Neves played down Indonesia's objections, insisting the number of Portuguese voters was "neglible".

"We think whatever the number, it is neglible and will not have any influence on the final outcome of the consultation," Neves told reporters after the meeting.

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said the participation of the Portugese voters violated the main objective of the May 5th New York Agreement governing the polls.

"I am sorry to (say) this but a number of white Portuguese had registered themselves for the upcoming ballot," Alatas was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying.

"Clearly this is against the spirit of the May 5 agreement because the agreement as a whole...specifically on criterias were made to give an opportunity for East Timorese," Alatas he later told the private SCTV channel.

Wisnumurti said the UN and Portuguese representatives found the matter a "legitimate problem".

"The New York agreement was not to give an opportunity for that kind of Portuguese to participate in the popular consultation ... We have talked about it in this meeting and asked the United Nations to overcome this situation," he added.

Some 450,000 East Timorese who have registered in the territory and abroad, will vote on August 30 on an offer of autonomy with Indonesia.

Indonesia has said it may free the former Portuguese colony, it invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year, if most East Timorese reject the offer.

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