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Sampaio hopes ICRC can resume work soon in East Timor

Portugal's President Jorge Sampaio on Thursday called on the international community to support democracy in East Timor, where anti-independence militias have caused death and destruction after voters came out in favour of secession.

This content was published on September 9, 1999 - 13:55

Portugal's President Jorge Sampaio on Thursday called on the international community to support democracy in East Timor, where anti-independence militias have caused death and destruction after voters came out in favour of secession.

Sampaio, speaking during a brief visit to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, condemned the "gross violations" of humanitarian law in East Timor.

"Words fail me to express our feelings of indignation in the face of such an appalling spectacle," Sampaio said.

"Towns pillaged and burned, places of worship violated, the United Nations besieged, populations displaced, gratuitous killings of defenceless men and women and premeditated murder, violence and terror everywhere," he added.

Violence by pro-Indonesian militias flared after U.N. officials announced Saturday that an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted in an August 30 referendum for independence from Indonesia.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later in a move not recognised by the U.N.

Sampaio cut short a planned three-day visit to Switzerland because of the situation. Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, speaking during the official welcoming ceremony on Wednesday, expressed Switzerland’s support for pro-democracy efforts in East Timor.

"For the East Timorese people's hopes to be become reality, it is more important than ever that the international community as a whole mobilises itself," ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga said.

The ICRC evacuated its delegates from the half-island territory Monday after its compound in the capital, Dili, was attacked.

Sampaio said he hoped the ICRC would be able to resume its work as soon as possible.

From staff and wire reports.

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