Subject: AFP: Annan cancels visit to W Timor camps after attacks

Agence France-Presse (AFP) 16 Feb 2000

Annan cancels visit to Timor camps after attacks

DILI, East Timor, Feb 16 (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has cancelled a planned visit to refugee camps in West Timor but the move has nothing to with recent attacks on UN workers there, a UN spokesman said here Wednesday.

"It is completely unrelated," said Rafek Hodzic of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Annan is to arrive in East Timor at around noon on Thursday for a one-day visit. He had been expected to visit Atambua just across the border in Indonesian West Timor, where some of the estimated 100,000 East Timorese refugees remain in camps.

Hodzic explained the cancellation by saying a trip to Atambua would have shortened considerably the time Annan would have been able to stay in East Timor.

In addition the Atambua airport is not able to easily accommodate the aircraft that would bring the secretary general's delegation, he said.

Wendy Rappeport, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told journalists that two incidents had occured in the Atambua area since last Friday.

On Monday eight workers were trying to move a convoy of refugees under Indonesian police escort when one of the policemen prodded a worker with a rifle, Rapppaport said.

Police also fired shot into the air so they could eat lunch, he said.

"UNHCR staff called the Indonesian army and the policeman was sent back and the convoy proceeded," Rappaport said.

The second incident occured Friday when UNHCR staff in a car were stoned by militias.

She said the staff were trying to conduct a public information campaign about the situation in East Timor.

"We have expressed our concern to Indonesian authorities about the upsurge of security incidents in the last four weeks, which have disrupted our efforts on several occasions."

More than 140,000 East Timorese have now returned to the their home territory from four refugee camps in West Timor and other locations. They were expelled in September during a campaign of murder, looting and destruction by militias backed by the Indonesian army.

The violence followed East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia in an August 30 referendum.

Annan was personally involved in negotiations which led to the vote and now he is coming to East Timor to see for himself what has happened.

Shortly after arriving in Dili, this East Timorese capital, from visit to Indonesia, he is to fly to Liquisa, one of the areas which suffered most severely from militia abuse in the months leading to the ballot.

Last April, dozens of people were massacred at a church in the town about a 45-minute drive west of Dili.

Hodzic said that on his return from Liquisa, Annan will fly over some areas which suffered extensive damage in the September violence.

The secretary general is to meet with East Timorese and UNTAET officials, with women groups and with ordinary residents of the territory. He leaves for Australia on Friday.


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