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Bishop Belo calls for 'free and fair' elections for East Timor

Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili has appealed for this month's landmark elections to be free and fair, urging East Timorese to vote for candidates who would best serve the new country's interests.

Bishop Belo's message, addressed to all parishes in the capital, Dili, thanked the UN-run transitional administration that was set up after the UN-supervised 1999 referendum on independence.

East Timor, which voted overwhelmingly in 1999 to break away from neighbouring Indonesia, holds its first democratic elections on 30 August.

This month's ballot will return 88 members to a constituent assembly which will have 90 days to prepare an independent, democratic constitution.

Bishop Belo also thanked the international community, which, he said, was accompanying the people of East Timor on this great step towards democracy, peace and development.