Subject: AAP: Arrival of UN teams marks start of E.Timor transition
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 09:19:40 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Arrival of UN teams marks start of E.Timor transition By Karen Polglaze, South East Asia Correspondent

DILI, East Timor, March 24 AAP - The first concrete steps towards giving the East Timorese people a say in their own future were taken today when a United Nations team stepped off a plane at Dili Airport.

Led by Francesc Vendrell (Francesc Vendrell), the eight-member team will create a plan as the basis of a July vote so East Timorese all over the world can decide whether or not to stay integrated with Indonesia.

And Australia could be asked to help fund it.

The team includes UN Chief Electoral Adviser Horatio Boneo, who has had experience in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Haiti and Mozambique.

There is little time to organise the vote, which is being described as a consultation because Indonesia rejects any suggestion that it is a referendum. "The lack of time is an issue," Vendrell said.

"Obviously there are major logistics problems that we will have to look at. "We have to create a climate that is free of intimidation of any sort." Crucial to the process was the establishment of a commission for peace and reconciliation.

"The Secretary General (Kofi Annan) is very keen that such a commission composed of East Timorese and ABRI (the acronym for the Indonesian military) and the church should be established as soon as possible," Vendrell said. The success of the UN-run vote depended on the cooperation of everyone involved - the East Timorese people, the Indonesian authority and Portugal - and on the availability of necessary funds.

East Timor doesn't have a budget of its own for a ballot and Indonesia, which in 1976 annexed the former Portuguese colony it invaded in 1975, has itself been receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid in order to fund its own general election to be held in June.

Australia as well as other interested countries will be expected to show support.

"I'm hopeful there's enough interest about East Timor in many parts of the world, including in Australia and of course in Portugal, but in many other countries, too, that I think you'll find the finance," Vendrell said. Some members of the team will visit Australia and Portugal - countries where there are large East Timorese communities which will also have a say in the future of the territory - and then return to New York to write a blueprint for the consultation.

The blueprint will be presented to a meeting of senior Indonesian and Portuguese officials to be held in New York from April 13. The blueprint will then be discussed by the foreign ministers of Portugal and Indonesia at a meeting held under the auspices of the UN in New York on April 23.

An agreement is expected to result from the meeting.

The UN team will stay five days in East Timor and further missions would be sent if necessary, Vendrell said.

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