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UN Warns of Unrest in East Timor

January 28, 2000

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The United Nations on Friday warned of the potential for social unrest in East Timor because of unemployment, high food prices and disrupted social services in the aftermath of the territory’s vote for independence.

To try to counter the risk, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the U.N. transitional administration in East Timor, or UNTAET, make creating jobs and beefing up East Timor’s destroyed infrastructure a priority.

``The East Timorese have received UNTAET with a great deal of goodwill and very high expectations as the embodiment of the international community’s promise of support,″ Annan wrote in a report to the Security Council. ``However, they are in desperate straits and are understandably impatient for UNTAET to deliver on this promise.″

East Timor’s people voted overwhelmingly in a U.N.-organized ballot on Aug. 30 to break away from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later.

Indonesian-backed militias went on a weeks-long killing and looting rampage to protest the results, destroying large parts of the territory and driving tens of thousands of East Timorese into the neighboring, Indonesian-controlled territory of West Timor.

The United Nations estimates there are still nearly 100,000 people in refugee camps set up in West Timor, where pro-Indonesian militias continue to operate, allegedly harassing and intimidating the refugees.

In his report, Annan said the U.N. mission, which has been running the territory for three months, is trying to coordinate humanitarian relief efforts. But he said the destruction of the territory, particularly in public services, would continue to be a serious obstacle to progress.

``Widespread unemployment and the disruption of the education system and other social and public services, combined with the very high prices of food and other daily necessities, bear the potential for serious social problems,″ he wrote.

In addition to trying to create more jobs, expanding trade will be an important step in lowering the prices of basic goods, Annan said.

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