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DATE=9/28/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=U-N - EAST TIMOR - INTERVENTION NUMBER=5-44361 BYLINE=MAX RUSTON DATELINE=UNITED NATIONS CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The United Nations is facing criticism for its failure to prevent the latest violence in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. U-N officials are defending the organization. But they also say compromises were made in order to secure Indonesia's agreement to allow the vote last month on East Timor independence. V-O-A's U-N correspondent Max Ruston looks at how the United Nations dealt with the apparently difficult choices it faced on the issue of East Timor. TEXT: U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he moved forward with East Timor's August 30th independence referendum fully aware that it could lead to tension and some violence. While the extent of the violence that did take place was not predicted, Mr. Annan says a deliberate decision was made to carry though with the referendum, even without a U-N peacekeeping force. /// ANNAN ACT /// I know there are people who in hindsight say I should have gone in with a force and that the U- N should not have taken or accepted the word of the Indonesians that they will maintain law and order. When you are moving forward in this sort of negotiations, where you have had 24 years of impasse, you get to a stage where, for example if we had not accepted, and insisted that they should maintain law and order, they would probably have never had the vote. And everybody thought they would deliver. Nobody in his wildest dreams thought what we are witnessing could have happened. /// END ACT /// It is that decision which is prompting new criticism of Mr. Annan and the United Nations. Some East Timorese groups say Mr. Annan should not have accepted Indonesia's promise to maintain security during the election period. They say he should have insisted on sending a U-N force. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the choice was not so simple. Considering the fragile state of Indonesian politics, there were concerns that Jakarta might withdraw its offer to cooperate with the results of a referendum. The opportunity was considered rare and the alternative, Mr. Downer says, would have been cancellation of the vote. /// DOWNER ACT /// If the United Nations and Portugal, which were the parties to the fifth of May agreement, and the international community had insisted on a peacekeeping force being inserted before the ballot took place, the ballot would not have taken place. /// END ACT /// Mr. Downer says he is confident history will judge Mr. Annan's decision to move forward with the referendum as a wise one considering the complex situation. Some diplomats at the United Nations say Mr. Downer's assumption - that more forceful U-N action would have led to the cancellation of the referendum - is not necessarily accurate. They say the United Nations has a tendency towards conservative and cautious decisions and should have at least tried to improve security conditions ahead of the ballot. Others say the U-N simply does not have the power or authority to send troops into unfriendly territory. The issue has created division not only at the United Nations, but also, apparently, among East Timor independence leaders. Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta says he intentionally boycotted the signing of the agreement on the referendum because it ceded too much power to the Indonesian military. But, speaking through an interpreter, independence leader Xanana Gusmao, who is expected to become East Timor's first president, says he is confident that East Timor's population supports Mr. Annan's decisions. /// GUSMAO INTERPRETER ACT /// Every decision taken by the U-N Secretary- General was fully supported by us. We fought for 23 years for this opportunity and throughout that period we faced all sorts of challenges and dangers. We faced a huge amount of suffering, a huge death toll, just to gain this right to self-determination. /// END ACT /// Mr. Gusmao says the people of East Timor were aware of the potential for violence but were not willing to let that stop them from achieving independence. (Signed) NEB/MPR/LSF/TVM/PT 28-Sep-1999 21:03 PM LOC (29-Sep-1999 0103 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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