Patience needed in reconstructing East Timor, Annan tells Security Council

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today briefed the Security Council on his recent trip to East Timor, stressing the need for patience in assessing reconstruction progress and urging it not to establish "arbitrary deadlines" for the UN to fulfill its mandate.

"It would be irresponsible to leave before the job is done," Mr. Annan said. "The timing of our departure must be decided by objective criteria."

Such criteria, he told the Council, were being drawn up in consultation with Timorese leaders by the head of the UN mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello, to ensure that the UN would accomplish what it had set out to do and that the East Timorese would be ready to assume full control of their destiny when the UN mission departed.

Mr. Annan added that the Security Council should be prepared to extend the mandate of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), in order to see the job through to its natural conclusion. UNTAET's mandate is due to expire in January 2001.

A crucial element in East Timor's ability to move forward was a "proper reckoning" for past injustices, he said, informing the Council that the Indonesian government had sanctioned a commission of inquiry to report on the violence and that the Attorney General was demonstrating a will to move ahead with prosecutions and trials.

"I am aware, of course, that the Security Council can choose to form a tribunal of its own," he added. "But I share the belief that Indonesia should be given the chance to demonstrate its capacity to do a credible and transparent job of holding people accountable for their crimes."