Subject: IPS: Xanana seeks rebuilding

Inter Press Service

September 28, 1999, Tuesday


By Farhan Haq


Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao today pleaded for the reconstruction of East Timor and the quick deployment of international troops there to restore order after weeks of violence by pro-Indonesia forces.

Gusmao, freed three weeks ago from house arrest in Indonesia, made his appeal for international assistance as the United Nations announced that East Timor would need $ 135.5 million in immediate emergency needs.

The Timorese leader met separately with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas today and declared that the situation of some 200,000 East Timorese, forcibly deported to West Timor, was especially dire.

"We need the multinational force to move fast into East Timor, to increase the number of troops there," Gusmao, leader of the pro-independence National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), said. Currently, only about half of the more than 7,000 Australian- led troops of the International Force, or Interfet, were deployed in East Timor.

Gusmao said that hundreds of thousands of East Timorese who had been moved to the Indonesian province of West Timor and to several Indonesian islands were in "very poor conditions of food and security. They live in fear."

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said that UN and Indonesian officials were discussing the repatriation of the East Timorese refugees, approximately 230,000 of whom were in West Timor. But Indonesian officials said it was "too early to discuss their return," Eckhard said.

Gusmao said that, during their meeting, Alatas had promised Indonesia would "contribute to the greatest possible extent to pacify East Timor and to repatriate the refugees."

Jose Ramos Horta, Gusmao's deputy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, added that the CNRT had urged all governments to exert diplomatic pressure for the return of the Timorese refugees and called for a "mini-Marshall Plan" of assistance to the island state.

According to UN officials and reports from the territory, East Timor has been largely destroyed in the violence by the militias -- reportedly aided by some Indonesian troops -- since the Aug. 30 ballot in which nearly 80 percent of East Timorese voters opted for independence from Indonesia.

The UN report issued today said that at least $ 135.5 million would be needed to handle the basic requirements for the next six months of the roughly 500,000 East Timorese who were driven from their homes because of the violence.

Of that amount, more than $ 40 million is needed for food aid, $ 22.4 million for shelter and other support to refugees, $ 24 million for medicine and $ 21.7 million for clean water and sanitation.

Ramos Horta added that the World Bank and more than 30 countries have confirmed their intention to assess East Timor's rebuilding needs jointly and to estimate the territory's long-term requirements.

After several weeks when thousands of East Timorese are believed to have been killed and hundreds of thousands lived with little food in makeshift camps, Gusmao's arrival at the United Nations struck a somber note.

"You have been through a lot, and we've been through a lot together," Annan said at the beginning of his meeting with the CNRT leader.

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