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Progress in Timor-Leste 'encouraging', Security Council told

10 May 2004 ? Cautioning that the peacekeeping developments in recently-independent Timor-Leste are better characterized as encouraging than as successful, the top United Nations envoy to the country today took his leave of a mission that is being gradually downsized.

"I would like to acknowledge with satisfaction the fact that the engagement of the peacekeeping mission in Timor Leste is widely described as having been a successful one," Kamalesh Sharma, the chief of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), told the Security Council in an open briefing. "I myself characterize the outcomes and result as 'encouraging.'"

The experience of the last half-century has shown that for success to be embedded and durable, unremitting effort and belief in the highest values of democratic and participative governance had to be demonstrated over a long period, Mr. Sharma said.

"All too often what appeared to be a success story has turned sour," he said.

The first leaders of any nation must take care to safeguard the means of policy and not only the ends, Mr. Sharma said. "I believe this is a test which the first leadership of Timor-Leste is equipped to discharge to the lasting benefit of the present and succeeding generations."

Independence from Indonesia was the choice of 80 per cent of voters in the former Portuguese colony in 1999, but the Indonesian army and its local militias exacted bloody vengeance, prompting intervention by an Australian-led international force. Under subsequent UN administration, Timor-Leste went on to elect Xanana Gusmão as President and Mari Alkatiri as Prime Minister in April 2002 before achieving full independence the next month.

Mr. Sharma called on the world to support Timor-Leste, one of its poorest countries, because "no lasting political or social gain can accrue without economic growth and social development."

The commitment by Indonesia to control armed criminal elements inside and outside Timor-Leste was encouraging, as was the effort of Timor-Leste to develop the capabilities of its security agencies, Mr. Sharma said.

The Senior Minister in the Timor-Leste Presidency, Ana Pessoa, told the Council that the international community had managed to rebuild a nation in a "unique and inspiring chapter" in her people's history.

She said the government and the Catholic Church were cooperating in raising the participation of women in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, eliminating domestic violence and promoting responsible family planning.

Timor-Leste and Indonesia would try to finalize their borders by June, while negotiations on the maritime border with Australia, lying in an area rich in oil and natural gas, had begun, Ms. Pessoa said.

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