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UN Daily Briefing - Comments On East Timor

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**East Timor

Good afternoon. Ballot counting is continuing through the night in Dili, East Timor, and the expectation is that it can be completed by morning. It is not excluded therefore that the results could be announced in Dili on Saturday, their time, which could mean sometime tonight New York time. Please stay in touch with our office through the afternoon to get an update.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) reported today that militia rampaged through the regions of Maliana and Liquica, burning homes and attacking residents. The village of Maliana, where two local United Nations staff were killed in this incident -– as we announced yesterday -- is described today as a "ghost town". The United Nations evacuated all international staff from Maliana. United Nations staff remain in Liquica, where 20 to 30 homes were burned. Dili remained quiet, although some militia activity was reported there as well.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says her staff are in a race against time to provide urgently needed assistance to displaced people in East Timor, who now number about 50,000. Many of these are temporarily housed in churches and schools. UNHCR and other aid agencies are providing these people with rice, beans, dried fish, sugar, salt, as well as mats, blankets and kitchen sets.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, today issued a statement expressing deep concern over the reports of spiraling violence in East Timor.

Mrs. Robinson said the current violence threatens to derail the consultation process and seems aimed at denying the East Timorese their right to determine their own future.

She said, "It is essential that the progress achieved until now in East Timor not be reversed". She emphasized that the vote's outcome will represent the will of the people of East Timor and must be respected.

We have copies of the full statement in my office.

ENDS

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