/** reg.easttimor: 3015.0 **/

** Topic: AFP: Distraught UN staff protest at withdrawal plan **
** Written 4:13 PM Sep 8, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: AFP: Distraught UN staff protest at withdrawal plan

Distraught UN staff protest at withdrawal plan

LONDON, Sept 8 (AFP) - Distraught United Nations staff in the East Timor capital Dili protested Wednesday against plans to evacuate them, saying it would leave refugees at the mercy of anti-independence militias, a journalist inside the UN compound reported.

Tom Fawthrop of the Sunday Times, contacted by Britain's Channel 4 television, said the staff stand could be "unprecedented" in the United Nations' history.

He said civil, military and police personnel were protesting against the plan to withdraw them.

All UN staff were originally scheduled to be evacuated Thursday but the UN headquarters in New York later delayed their departure by 24 hours and said those that wanted could remain on a voluntary basis.

Fawthrop estimated that 2,500 refugees were sheltering inside the UN complex.

"Most of these 2,500 people are coming to us in tears in their eyes," he said. "They are petrified, they know what has happened to the population in Dili, that their capital has been reduced to rubble, that they have burned the university."

He added that the refugees and local UN staff "have little doubt that they are targets for elimination."

"There are 22 journalists left and we will protest the decision to the UN's head of mission and we are supporting an internal protest of UN staff, which may well be unprecedented in the history of the UN."

Police officers working for the United Nations "from different countries around the world, UN military liaison officers, all of whom were part of this unarmed UN mission, have all said they are ashamed of this decision," the journalist added.

"Many have tears in their eyes, saying 'how can the UN do this to the Timorese people after the referendum when we, the UN, had promised the East Timorese that they would stay in the country?'"

Some 200 international UN staff as well as 160 local employees have been living under siege in the compound since Sunday.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **