Subject: AFP: UN administration lays groundwork for governing East Timor

UN administration lays groundwork for governing East Timor

DILI, East Timor, Nov 27 (AFP) - The UN chief administrator of East Timor Saturday laid the groundwork for administering the territory ahead of full independence setting out new laws and creating a national council.

The head of the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET), Sergio Vieira de Mello, in a ceremony at his office also attended by East Timor independence leader Xanana Gusmao, signed "regulation number one" for the new administration.

The regulation "provides us with the legal and political framework which will enable us to move forward in a number of priority areas," said de Mello.

It oulined the executives, legislative and judicial authorities of the UNTAET.

Gusmao, who is widely tipped to lead the free East Timorese state, welcomed the event as "a very important day."

All laws applying prior to October 25, the date Indonesia handed authority over East Timor to the United Nations, will continue to apply unless superceded.

However several Indonesian laws that conflicted with human rights were repealed, he said, citing an anti-subversion law, and laws on national defence and security.

All new regulations and laws will be issued in three languages -- Portuguese, Indonesian and English -- with a translation in the local Tetum language if necessary.

The chief UN administrator was given the power to appoint and dismiss officials in the administration.

But it also specified that the administrator "shall consult and cooperate closely with reprensentatives of East Timor."

De Mello said he will head a 15-member National Consultative Committee which will include representatives from the church and the pro-independence umbrella organisation, the National Resistance Council of East Timorheaded by Gusmao.

"If you wish, it (the committee) is the equivalent in this kind of situation, of a cabinet," De Mello said.

"There is a lot of work before us and no time to be wasted," de Mello said after the signing.

He expressed hopes that the committee could be formed soon and hold its first meeting next week.

Gusmao pledged the commitment of the CNRT that he leads, to work together with the UNTAET.

"Again we would like to say we are with you because we know you are with us," Gusmao told the UNTAET officials.

The body will look at policies and legislative proposals, debate and agree on the texts which de Mello will then promulgate.

"But we will avoid voting, I think we should reach decisions by consensus," De Mello said.

He added that the committee will also be assisted by several sub-committees and cited sectors such as health and transportation. They will be expected to meet weekly, he said.

The regulation also stipulates that the UNTAET would administer "moveable and imovable properties" registered under Indonesia in East Timor.

"Restoring warm relations with Indonesia will be a priority, and I hope it would be reciprocated," de Mello said.

De Mello said that besides the one church representative, all 14 other members of the committee will come from the CNRT.

But he added that other political groups may join the committee "if they agree to respect the consultation outcome and reject violence."

He was referring to the UN-held August 30 referendum of self-determination in East Timor in which East Timorese voted three to one to break away from Indonesia which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

East Timor is expected to become independent in two to three years and the United Nations is administering the territory until then and assisting East Timorese prepare for their independence.

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