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UN human rights team interviewing eyewitnesses in East Timor

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The United Nations team investigating human rights violations in East Timor has been interviewing eyewitnesses in the capital Dili, a UN spokesman in New York said today.
The members of the international commission of inquiry have been meeting with eyewitnesses of violations and hearing testimony to killings and deportations, Spokesman Fred Eckhard told a UN press briefing.

"Their forensic expert has carried out preliminary examinations of some of the bodies that had been found recently in West Timor, but there are no conclusions yet on that examination," he added.

Team members also met with independence leader Xanana Gusmao and Bishop Carlos Belo, Mr. Eckhard said. Last Saturday, the Commissioners went to Los Palos, in the east of the region, where killings had taken place during and after the voting period in August.

The Commissioners are scheduled to stay in Dili through the second week of December. They are still awaiting Indonesian visas that would allow them to go Jakarta and West Timor, Mr. Eckhard said.

Meanwhile, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the UN mission, returned from Australia to Dili today, bringing with him Jose Ramos Horta, the Nobel Laureate, who returned to East Timor for the first time after 24 years in exile.

Mr. Ramos Horta told a welcoming crowd, "We have in New York a great, good friend, Kofi Annan, and we have here is East Timor the second best man that the UN has, Sergio Vieira de Mello."

Mr. Gusmao also returned to East Timor today from Jakarta, where he had successful talks with the Indonesian authorities, who announced the release of 18 East Timorese political prisoners and the reopening of air traffic between Indonesia and East Timor, Mr. Eckhard said.