Subject: KY: UN to stay in Timor beyond independence, JRH

January 30 , 2001 15:59PM


DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 30 (Bernama-Kyodo) - U.N. peacekeepers are set to remain in East Timor for at least two years after the territory's independence, Jose Ramos-Horta, cabinet member for foreign affairs in the East Timor Transitional Administration, said Monday.

A general agreement has been reached among countries involved that the troops should stay on under the U.N. framework to help maintain order and provide assistance, Ramos-Horta said in an interview with Kyodo News in Davos, Switzerland, where he has been attending an annual summit of the World Economic Forum.

''It is already taken for granted, agreed informally by everybody, that the U.N. peacekeeping forces will stay beyond independence,'' Ramos-Horta said.

The troops are likely to remain ''at least for two to three years, if not more,'' the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.

Ramos-Horta also proposed that a new security framework be established in Asia similar to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to prevent the kind of violence that followed East Timor's 1999 referendum on independence.

''There has to be some mechanism in the future, maybe in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or ASEAN Regional Forum, for Asian countries to intervene collectively in addressing some of the worst conflicts,'' he said.

The OSCE is a regional security organization serving as an instrument for conflict prevention and crisis management.

Killing and looting followed the August 1999 U.N.-sponsored referendum in East Timor, in which residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of breaking with Indonesia, which had invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it.

Ramos-Horta said that East Timor will seek membership in various regional frameworks and develop closer ties with neighboring countries.

''I believe that our best defense and protection should not be based (only) on having a credible army,'' he said.

''Multiple membership in regional organizations, membership in ASEAN, close economic trade relations with countries in the region would better ensure our territorial integrity.''

He also said he hopes there will be ''some form of cooperation'' between the future East Timor defense forces and Indonesian troops.

''We have a common border. Who is going to patrol that common border? It will be the joint forces of East Timor and Indonesia,'' he said.

Ramos-Horta said no date has been set to declare independence. ''We prefer to remain flexible,'' he said. ''We had been waiting for 500 years.

If we have to wait for another year or two, then let's wait.''

The English name for the territory after its independence will likely be ''The Republic of East Timor,'' he said.

Ramos-Horta also said that three Northeast Asian leaders played a key role in persuading then Indonesian President B.J. Habibie to accept multinational forces in his country in 1999.

South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in particular played a crucial role, phoning Chinese President Jiang Zemin and then Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to discuss ways to put an end to the violence, he said.

Ramos-Horta also said the territory plans to avoid the entanglement of loans as much as possible.

''Fortunately so far, we can say we must be the only country in the developing world that doesn't have one single dollar in external debt,'' he said. ''When we formally accede independence, we will not have one dollar in external debt. We want to maintain this situation.''

One source of income for the territory of 800,000 is oil and gas.

Ramos-Horta predicted that East Timor would receive several hundred million dollars in revenue from oil and gas in a few years' time.

Ramos-Horta said he plans to visit Japan in March for talks with senior Japanese officials, including Foreign Minister Yohei Kono.

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