The head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) has appointed the current Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, José Ramos-Horta, to fill the vacancy created by Xanana Gusmão's resignation last week from the National Council, the UN operation announced today.
"I sincerely congratulate Dr. Ramos-Horta on his appointment," UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello said on 31 March, the day of the appointment. "Of course it is with great regret that I bid farewell to such a dynamic and able Cabinet member. However I am confident that his talents and energies will be invaluable to the National Council in coming months."
According to UNTAET, Mr. Gusmão - a representative of the political umbrella organization CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) - must be replaced by someone from the same group. Mr. Ramos-Horta is a CNRT Vice-President.
Since a member of the National Council cannot also serve in the Transitional Cabinet, Mr. Ramos-Horta has resigned from his current position. However, Mr. Vieira de Mello will reappoint him as Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs on 15 July, when the National Council is to be dissolved. "Naturally, we will count on his continued involvement and guidance in foreign affairs, a field to which he is so uniquely able to contribute," Mr. Vieira de Mello said, noting that he plans to appoint an interim Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs "very soon."
In other news, two suspected militiamen were fired upon by an Australian UN soldier eight kilometres east of Balibo, where UN troops monitor refugee returns and other cross-border movement. When one of the militiamen - armed with a rifle and dressed in camouflage fatigues - attempted to open fire on the peacekeeper, the soldier responded by firing three rounds in self-defence, UNTAET said today. Both suspected militiamen withdrew into West Timor.
The Australian battalion will carry out an investigation into the incident and "continue to prevent further militia infiltration into the Bobonaro District of East Timor," UNTAET said.