Subject: LUSA: Senior UN Official Praises Offer of Logo-free Presidential Ballot

12 Mar 02 18:21 East Timor: Senior UN Official Praises Offer of Logo-free Presidential Ballot

The United Nations Chief Transitional Administrator in East Timor congratulated Tuesday presidential candidate Xavier do Amaral on his willingness to drop partisan references from the ballot.

Sergio Vieira de Mello also praised the ASDT and Parentil parties for the "courageous initiative" in offering to remove their party logos from ballot papers.

"This demonstrates statesmanship and a genuine concern with the country`s situation as a whole. Xavier do Amaral and his supporters have established an elevated model of political maturity", Vieira de Mello said in a note sent to Lusa. The Brazilian diplomat also thanked Dili`s foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, for his role as facilitator in the dispute.

Xanana Gusmao´s only rival in East Timor´s presidential race, Xavier do Amaral, had said Tuesday he was willing to drop party references from the ballot, clearing the way for resolution of a controversy threatening the April 14 vote.

An official at the Independent Electoral Commission told Lusa that the body, which is responsible for organizing the vote, would likely announce a final decision on the issue Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Gusmao, who sparked the controversy at the weekend, said the independence leader had been informed of Amaral´s decision but would not issue a public reaction immediately.

On Saturday, Gusmao, considered a shoe-in in the presidential election, threatened to withdraw if the ballots carried partisan references, as previously announced by the commission.

The nine parties backing Gusmao said they had no objection in being dropped from the ticket.

Amaral, the leader of the ASDT party and vice-president of the Constituent Assembly, told a Dili news conference his initiative was taken to "calm spirits" and "contribute to resolving the problem".

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, who attended the news conference, praised Amaral and the two parties backing his candidacy, ASDT and Parentil, for demonstrating "maturity and sense of responsibility.

"The crisis was not begun by them, but they assumed it as a national crisis and wanted to contribute to closing this chapter", Ramos Horta said, declining to comment on Gusmao´s ultimatum.


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