Subject: AFP: UN urges autonomous government for East Timor
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 12:50:32 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Agence France Presse
UN urges autonomous government for East Timor LISBON, Nov 10
A United Nations proposal to resolve the dispute over East Timor includes plans for elections to an autonomous government as a first step on the road to self-determination, a UN official said Tuesday.
The proposal was put to Indonesia and Portugal last month at talks with Jamsheed Marker, UN-Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal representative for East Timor.
Details of the proposal were not revealed at the time and the two sides are due to meet again in New York from November 19.
Marker, in an interview with the daily Diario de Noticias here, said Tuesday the proposal was based on: "An Indonesian proposition to give a large degree of autonomy to the territory except in the areas of defence, foreign affairs and fiscal policy."
He said the proposition had been welcomed by the United Nations. "But we have decided to go further and prepare a more substantial document which could be accepted by both countries, whatever the final decision on the territory's status," he said.
"According to this document the Timorese can freely elect their autonomous government," Marker added.
Marker said all political forces would be able to take part in the election. "The important thing is to test the political situation."
"It could be that the Timorese prefer autonomy for a certain period and will later demand self-determination. But it is necessary first to see how autonomy works."
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was annexed by Jakarta in 1976 after Lisbon moved out.
Portugal favours independence for the territory.
The United Nations continues to regard Lisbon as the official administrator of East Timor and the UN has sponsored peace talks between Portugal and Indonesia since 1983.
The talks have gained momentum since the ouster of Indonesian President Suharto in May.
"I'm very satisfied with the progress that's so far been achieved. We have a great deal to do as yet and a long way to go, but the willingness to compromise and the atmosphere of negotiations is very positive," Marker said after October's talks.
The meeting at the United Nations was attended by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's Director General Nugroho Wisnumurti and Portugal's UN permanent representative Fernando Neves.