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East Timor: newly formed Council of Ministers holds first formal meeting

East Timor: newly formed Council of Ministers holds first formal meeting

The newly formed all-Timorese Council of Ministers - which replaces the East Timor Transitional Cabinet - held its first formal meeting today, marking another step on East Timor's path toward full independence, the United Nations Transitional Administration in the territory (UNTAET) said in a statement.

Attending the meeting on an exceptional basis, UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello reiterated his support for the Council, also known as the Second Transitional Government.

"I am very pleased because this Council of Minister represents, in a concrete way, the dream of freedom for which so many Timorese fought and died," said Mr. Vieira de Mello, who formerly chaired the meetings of the Transitional Cabinet. He added that the process was part of the UN's plans to grant the people of East Timor gradual self-governance before independence.

Referring to the "innovative relationship" between UNTAET and the Council of Ministers, Mr. Vieira de Mello said East Timor was about to initiate something that had never been done before - an administration that is still the UN, but in which the executive power was in the hands of an East Timorese Government with democratic legitimacy. "This phase is perhaps the most demanding one so far," he said.

Also speaking at today's session, the Chief Minister and Minister of Economy and Development, Marí Alkatiri, briefed Council members on a range of economic issues. Members also heard the Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, José Ramos-Horta, who spoke about East Timor's foreign policy in general and its relationship with other countries, in particular Indonesia.

The Second Transitional Government and its Council of Ministers will govern East Timor during the remaining transitional period before its independence as a democratic and sovereign State, which is expected early next year.

The Transitional Government has its powers reinforced, formulating policies and supervising a newly formed Public Administration. According to the regulation establishing the Government, the Transitional Administrator, who has legislative and ultimate executive authority over the body, shall be regularly consulted by the Council of Ministers.