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NZ May Be Asked To Commit More to East Timor

The United Nation's Secretary General has proposed a restructuring of the UN Mission to East Timor that could see more New Zealanders placed in the troubled region.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has started preparing for post-ballot scenarios for the end of the so-called popular consultation and the implementation of the voting results from the August 30 ballot.

In his latest report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says that whatever the outcome of the autonomy vote, United Nations efforts must be "redoubled" to build confidence and support stability in the territory and "reassure all groups, in particular those who were in the minority in the ballot, that they have a role to play in the future political life of East Timor".

As part of the restructuring, the Secretary-General recommends increasing the civilian police component of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to 410 to enable it to operate in the territory's 13 regencies, or districts. The team would be augmented by another group of about 50 police to recruit and train a new East Timorese police force.

Annan also suggests strengthening the military liaison force to 300 to 'advise' the Indonesian armed forces on security matters, including efforts to disarm pro-independence factions and pro-integration militias.

Currently there are 10 New Zealand police officers in the province working under UN auspices.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs was not available for comment.

A New Zealand observer team is still planning to leave for East Timor about a week before the ballot date. The delegation comprises Phil Goff (Labour), Matt Robson (Alliance), Ken Shirley (ACT) and Rana Waitai (Mauri Pacific) and will be led by Roger Maxwell (National).

Other recommendations from Kofi Annan include maintaining a reduced number of UN Volunteers to oversee the election of an East Timorese Regional Council and a civil affairs component to observe political developments and promote respect for law and order and human rights. He says some additional humanitarian staff will also be needed to coordinate the provision of humanitarian assistance.

The Secretary-General asks the Council to authorise these recommendations for three months following the popular consultation scheduled for 30 August.

Some groups from both sides of the argument have already made it clear that they will dispute the result of the ballot if it goes against them and as a result a new round of talks on the post-ballot period (phase II) will be held in Jakarta on Thursday and Friday between Indonesian, Portuguese and UNAMET senior officials.

Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, and his deputy, Francesc Vendrell, will attend the meeting, as will Joachim Hutter, the Director of the Asia Division in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at UN Headquarters.

ENDS

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