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UN Sec. General Spokesman On East Timor

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL

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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Briefing by Spokeswoman for President of General Assembly

EAST TIMOR:

There have been many questions on the death of the London Financial Times correspondent, Sander Thoenes, based in Jakarta. We contacted the Australian Mission on the matter and they informed us that the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) does not have information on how and when Mr. Thoenes travelled to East Timor. However, it is understood that he arrived on Tuesday afternoon, Dili time.

Preliminary information available to INTERFET, but yet to be confirmed, is that shortly after his arrival, Mr. Thoenes hired a local driver of a motorbike to take him outside Dili. Reports were that the driver of the motorbike came forward after the body was discovered and alleged that he and Mr. Thoenes were chased by men in uniform who called on them to stop. When they did not, shots were fired. These reports are yet to be substantiated.

An investigation of the death is being conducted jointly by INTERFET and the Indonesian army.

Meanwhile, three Australian military planes carrying 30 tons of World Food Programme (WFP) humanitarian daily rations dropped the much- needed food assistance to three areas in the eastern region of East Timor.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which has reopened its office in Atambua, West Timor, reported that a truck with 1.2 metric tons of baby food left the town yesterday for Dili with the village of Dare as its final destination. The truck cleared several military checkpoints, but was turned back by militia elements on the outskirts of Dili. The truck reportedly returned safely to West Timor.

The UNICEF, together with the other humanitarian agencies in East Timor, is making every effort possible to assure safe transport of assistance to the people in need. It is essential that security be established to enable vital transport of aid to proceed unheeded.

The WFP, meanwhile, said it had obtained clearance from the Indonesians to fly directly from Darwin to air drop sites without having to go through Dili, whose airport has been congested with incoming multinational force contingents. Two Sikorsky helicopters are expected to arrive in Darwin for WFP use to shuttle food to pockets of displaced persons in East Timor.

The WFP also said it was organizing distribution of food to those trickling down the mountains around Dili. Those in the mountains are currently surviving on cassava, a tropical plant with starchy roots used to make tapioca.

Ian Martin, the head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), met with an 18-member donor mission which travelled to Dili today. The mission included Julia Taft, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as senior officials from Australia, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, Japan and the European Union.

Mr. Martin returned with the mission to Darwin late Wednesday and was expected to give a press conference Thursday morning, Darwin time. He is expected to be in New York early next week, and we hope to have him here to brief you.

**Special Session on East Timor

The special session convened by the Commission on Human Rights on East Timor, scheduled to start tomorrow in Geneva, will be webcast live on the United Nations human rights Web site.

ENDS

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