Subject: RT/AP: UN warns nations to go slow on cuts in East Timor

The UN summary of the Security Council open meeting on East Timor is available at

Also: AP: UN Discusses E. Timor Peacekeeping

UN warns nations to go slow on cuts in East Timor

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, July 30 (Reuters) - With pressure from the United States and France to cut costs in East Timor, a senior U.N. official said on Monday that a reduction of soldiers had to be gradual but civilian staff could be cut substantially.

However, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. administrator for the former Portuguese colony, warned that what staff remained had to be financed by mandatory assessed contributions and not through uncertain and "debilitating" voluntary payments as the United States and others have suggested.

"We cannot simply walk away and thus put at risk the enormous investment that has been made thus far," he told the U.N. Security Council during a public debate.

East Timor, invaded by Indonesia in 1975, voted on Aug. 30, 1999, for independence. It is under U.N. administration until next year when independence is expected to be declared and Vieira de Mello said some peacekeeping reductions could come before then.

East Timorese go to the polls on Aug. 30 to elect an 88-member assembly that will draft a constitution. Presidential elections are expected to take place after the constitution is adopted and before independence early next year.

The U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor, known as UNTAET, has nearly 8,000 troops, 1,400 police officers and about 1,000 civilian staff.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a report earlier this week recommended peacekeepers should remain after independence because of continuing threats from militia in Indonesian West Timor, who went on a rampage after the 1999 independence vote.

But he said infantry battalions in the eastern region, away from the West Timor border, could be reduced from three to one and a similar reduction could take place in the central region after October, if the security situation remained stable.


Vieira de Mello told reporters there was no disagreement among council members on a gradual reduction of the military depending on security concerns.

But he said some countries were worried about the number of civilian staff that would remain on the U.N. payroll rather than private organizations or other countries. Annan is to make recommendations in October.

U.S. envoy Cameron Hume asked the United Nations for more details on a reduced mission while French envoy Yves Doutriaux wanted to know how long the mission would remain in East Timor and advocated regional organizations play a larger role.

But Singapore, which has some 120 troops and police in East Timor, warned that parallels should not be drawn with Kosovo, where Europeans and NATO are funding a large part of the operation. Southeast Asian nations, it said, were playing a big role but certainly did not have the resources of Europeans.

Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani cautioned members that if East Timor unraveled after independence the cost would be much higher than if the international presence were sustained. Militia, he said, were "lying low" in the belief foreign troops would be withdrawn.

With Indonesia's change of government, some diplomats worried that the President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who has close ties to the military, would go easy on disarming the militia, originally organized by Jakarta's army in East Timor.

But Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and foreign affairs minister in East Timor's transitional Cabinet, said she had told Timorese leaders she would try to resolve the "residual problems" in West Timor.

Megawati, he said, could not add East Timor to her host of problems, such as attracting foreign investment and stabilizing the political situation. "She is certainly conscious that she could not afford to pursue a policy different from her predecessor in relation to East Timor," he said.

JULY 30, 19:56 EDT

UN Discusses E. Timor Peacekeeping

By GERALD NADLER Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations may begin to cut its 8,000-member peacekeeping force in East Timor even before the former Indonesian province becomes independent next year, the territory's U.N. administrator said Monday.

But East Timor will still need significant assistance from the world body after independence, U.N. administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta, the foreign affairs minister in East Timor's transitional government, told the Security Council.

In the next step toward independence, East Timorese vote Aug. 30 on a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. Ramos Horta said presidential elections will take place after the constitution is adopted, and independence will follow early next year.

The former Portuguese colony voted on Aug. 30, 1999 to break its ties with Indonesia and is being administered by the United Nations in its transition to independence. The peacekeeping force was sent in after Indonesian troops and their militia supporters killed hundreds and destroyed much of East Timor after the independence vote.

In a report to the council last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said a substantial international presence would be needed after independence — including a peacekeeping force, because of threats from pro-Indonesian militias.

But Annan said it was possible to reduce the number of peacekeeper infantry battalions in the east and central regions if the security situation remains stable.

Vieira de Mello went a step further.

``Should the current stable conditions continue in East Timor through the election period and the formation of the constituent assembly,'' he said, ``I see no reason, at this stage, why that process could not commence — cautiously — prior to independence.''

Indonesian Ambassador Makmur Widodo denied claims in Annan's report that has not acted against militia groups in West Timor, which it controls. ``Nothing could be farther from the truth,'' he said, insisting that the militias have been disbanded and disarmed.

Both Vieira de Mello and Ramos Horta warned against too quick a U.N. withdrawal.

``Because peace is still fragile ... any consideration of hasty withdrawal soon after independence would undermine what has been achieved with so much cost in terms of financial resources, in terms of lives,'' Ramos Horta said.

The end of the U.N. mission is ``in sight,'' Vieira de Mello said, ``but it would be wrong to disengage from this activity prematurely.''

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