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United Nations mission in East Timor to hold conference on defence force

United Nations mission in East Timor to hold conference on defence force

Fourteen countries have confirmed their participation in the second international conference of countries willing to help develop the future East Timor Defence Force (ETDF), the United Nations mission in East Timor announced today.

The conference, taking place on 25-26 June in Dili, will present a progress report on the development of the ETDF and request further assistance in establishing and developing the Force, focusing on advisory support, training support, logistic support, equipment and development. Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), will chair the meeting. The first conference took place on 20-21 November 2000.

In a separate development, UNTAET announced today that a new formal round of talks on the Timor Sea between UNTAET/East Timor Transitional Administration (ETTA) and the Australian Government would be held in Canberra from 12 to 14 June. The delegations will be led by Cabinet Members Peter Galbraith and Mari Alkatiri for UNTAET/ETTA, and by David Ritchie, First Assistant Secretary of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. A further treaty governing the resources of the Timor Sea is expected to be signed by East Timor as an independent State.

Meanwhile, the UNTAET observer of the registration exercise that Indonesia has undertaken in the refugee camps in West Timor, Timothy Hudner, will return to East Timor tomorrow. So far, the mission has received no official results of the registration, during which East Timorese refugees living in camps in West Timor, Indonesia, were asked whether they wished to remain or return to East Timor.

Mr. Vieira de Mello said today that UNTAET was interested in knowing the number of refugees still in West Timor, adding that "given the coercive circumstances that refugees have been living under for almost 20 months," UNTAET would not take the choices they made "as necessarily reflecting their true and definite desires."

UNTAET also said today that 82 per cent -- more than 668,000 people -- of East Timor's population had been registered by the mission's Civil Registration Unit as of 7 June. This exercise aims to register all potential voters in the 30 August elections for a Constituent Assembly in East Timor.