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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Enthusiasm over Timorese poll

Pro-independence leader Xanana Gusmao was among those who registered

The number of people registering for this month's planned vote on the future of East Timor has been higher than expected, the United Nations has said.

East Timor
But reports of more attacks on UN staff in the Indonesian-ruled territory have cast a shadow over preparations for the poll - and a resistance leader has complained that his fighters have not been offered adequate protection when going to register.

UN spokesman David Wimhurst told the BBC that he expects more than 420,000 people to have signed up to vote when the registration booths close on Friday.

Both Mr Wimhurst and the independence campaigner, Jose Ramos Horta, said they were optimistic the vote on autonomy will go ahead on 30 August.

The referendum has already been postponed twice because of security fears.

Attacks on UN staff

UN spokesman Hiro Ueki said a UN civilian police officer was injured when about 20 men entered a meeting between UN staff and students and began throwing rocks and concrete.

Mr Ueki described the incident, which took place in the town of Ainaro in the south of the province, as "a vicious and swift attack that appeared to be well organised".

The attackers are reported to have been led by a man wearing a shirt with an Indonesian flag.

In another incident described by Mr Ueki, between 60 and 100 pro-Indonesian militiamen entered a registration post in the town of Batugade the west of the territory.

Police later forced the militiamen to leave the UN compound, but they remained in the area and the UN staff were evacuated.

UN mission criticised

[ image: The Falintil: Concerns over safety]
The Falintil: Concerns over safety
A senior commander of the pro-independence movement Falintil has complained that the UN Mission in East Timor (Unamet) has not done enough to enable his fighters to vote.

Commander Falur Rate Laek told Reuters news agency although Unamet had escorted some of his fighters to register, others were worried about the Indonesian military and the loyalist militia.

The former Portuguese colony of East Timor has been ruled by Indonesia since annexation in 1975.

The UN has never recognised the annexation.

Earlier this year Indonesian President BJ Habibie said he was prepared to consider independence for the territory if voters rejected an offer of increased autonomy.

But loyalist militia groups have waged an often violent campaign against independence.

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