FIJI, SAMOA, VANUATU STAY IN EAST TIMOR LIKELY TO BE EXTENDED

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SUVA, Fiji (February 2, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---The United Nations Security Council has agreed to keep peacekeepers in East Timor for at least another year, meaning a likely extension for Fiji soldiers and Samoan and Vanuatu police officers.

In a resolution, adopted unanimously, the Security Council decided to keep the current number of some 11,000 troops and civilians until January 31, 2002.

The Security Council also encouraged the territory to meet its goal of quick independence by the end of 2001.

The council asked United Nations administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello to continue delegating authority in the transitional government to the East Timorese "until authority is fully transferred to the government of an independent state of East Timor."

It said adjustments might be needed in the UN mandate, depending on the independence timetable.

Last week, Vieira de Mello told the council that East Timor will need international peacekeepers, police and civilian experts at least until 2004, according to the Jakarta Post newspaper.

He said international donors must provide the money to ensure that the new nation becomes a stable and secure democracy, the Jakarta Post reported.

Wednesday's resolution stressed "the need for a substantial international presence in East Timor after independence."

The U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor, known as UNTAET, has some 7,886 troops, 1,400 police and 2,668 civilian staff.

But at the urging of France and other nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to report by April 30 on whether the full complement of troops should remain, the Jakarta Post said.

East Timor's 800,000 people voted overwhelmingly in August 1999 to break with Indonesia, which ruled the former Portuguese colony after invading it in 1975.

On another key issue, the Security Council said a comprehensive solution must be found to the problem of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia-controlled West Timor.

More than 100,000 East Timorese fled across the border amidst violence by pro-Indonesian forces following the United Nations-organized referendum. While thousands of East Timorese have returned home, many more remain in the refugee camps.

At last week's Security Council meeting, senior UN and East Timorese officials said Indonesia has finally started improving security in the squalid refugee camps.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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