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McKinnon - East Timor Ballot result loud and clear

"The people of East Timor have made a clear statement about their future," New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Don McKinnon said today.

East Timorese voters showed last Monday they wanted to vote. In huge numbers they walked to the voting places set up by the United Nations. They began arriving very early in the morning and stood patiently in line. They did not allow themselves to be dissuaded by violence and threats.

"And now we have a loud and clear result. It is a triumph for the East Timorese people.

"President Habibie deserves credit for breaking with the past and allowing this act of self determination to take place. It was a courageous act and none of the many problems which have occurred in the implementation of the decision can detract from the boldness of his original determination to give a choice to the East Timorese.

"Indonesia deserves our commendation for working with Portugal to achieve the agreement in May that provided the framework for the conduct of the ballot. And the UN has performed heroically to hold the ballot in circumstances, which were never easy and often dangerous.

Mr McKinnon said Indonesia and East Timor now had a clear basis on which to work out a future as two separate but neighbouring states.

"We are conscious that the decision to allow East Timor to disengage from the Republic of Indonesia would have to await the convening of the People's Consultative Assembly in Jakarta.

"That decision is still more than two months away. The period will be an unsettled one. All parties need to respect the result of the ballot."

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Mr McKinnon said it was premature to speculate about the timetable for the arrival of peacekeeping forces in East Timor.

"As I said in Parliament on Thursday, New Zealand will work with the United Nations on this issue. We want the international community to remain engaged to see a peaceful conclusion to this process, to the point where the people of East Timor can be fully satisfied with the outcome and the future ahead of them."

ENDS

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