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UN To Withdraw Peace Operation From Timor-Leste 05

UN Preparing To Withdraw Peace Operation From Timor-Leste In 2005, Envoy Says

The United Nations Mission of Support in East-Timor (UNMISET) is preparing to conclude its work next May by turning over responsibility for key tasks to the East Timorese people, the senior UN envoy to the country told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council in an open meeting, Sukehiro Hasegawa said UN civilian advisors "are not only actively training and mentoring their East Timorese counterparts but also formulating exit strategies with their counterparts so as to ensure a smooth transition at the end of UNMISET."

He added that while the country's exact needs are not yet known, "it is clear that some form of continued international assistance will be indispensable in the finance and justice sectors beyond May."

The envoy's comments echoed a report issued earlier this month by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said East Timor's public administration and justice system "are still weak and fragile" and that outside support should continue after UNMISET is withdrawn.

The Security Council has set a target of completing by May all trials related to the violence which engulfed East Timor in the wake of the popular consultation on independence conducted in 1999.

In his briefing today, Mr. Hasegawa said the process "will not be able to respond fully to the desire for justice of all victims" before the Mission departs. But he added that several proposals are under consideration to address the matter, including by establishing an international tribunal or an international truth and reconciliation commission to function beyond May, 2005.

Looking ahead the envoy said UNMISET must increasingly focus in the coming six months on preparing to leave. Towards this end, experts are now identifying "specific measures required for a smooth transition from peacekeeping operations to more traditional nation-building and sustainable development assistance," he said.

This process, bolstered by talks involving the authorities and other officials, aims to determine how the Mission "can be taken over by East Timorese as well as development partners when the mandate of UNMISET is completed in May, 2005."

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