East Timor Commission granted visas to Indonesia

News and Press Release
Originally published
Highlights of the Noon Briefing
By Fred Eckhard
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
UN Headquarters, New York
The International Commission on of Inquiry on East Timor has been granted visas by the Indonesian Government to allow them to work inside Indonesia. They will travel from Dili to Jakarta on Sunday to work out their program.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who heads the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), today met with Jaime Gama, the Foreign Minister of Portugal.

Also today, agreement was reached with independence leader Xanana Gusmao and other members of his party on a final draft of a constitution for the planned 15-member National Consultative Council (NCC). The NCC will allow the United Nations to consult the East Timorese about the governing of East Timor during the transition period.

In an update on East Timor, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted the visit today of U.S. Senator John Reed, who went to Atambua, in West Timor.

In response to a question on what the United Nations was doing to help bring back refugees from West Timor, the Spokesman said that the UNHCR was disappointed that, following the agreement between the International Force in East Timor and the Indonesian military to facilitate their return, "there really has not been any quickening of the pace of returns." UNHCR reports encounters with militia on a daily basis, he said.

The spokesman also said that Vieira de Mello and UNTAET were giving UNHCR political support for its aims. Many refugees, according to UNHCR, are families of militia or people who had worked with the Indonesian armed forces, he said. The two main UN concerns, he said, is the continuing intimidation in the camps and the campaign in which people in the camps have been told that it is not safe to return. UNHCR has tried to provide information to counter that "propaganda," he said.