The main opposition group in East Timor, which is seeking independence from Indonesia, has welcomed the decision to postpone for two weeks a referendum on autonomy. The decision was taken by the UN Secretary General last night, because of concerns about attacks by groups opposing independence.

Kofi Annan, said that the referendum on the political future of East Timor planned for early in August would be postponed by two weeks. The ballot will allow the estimated 400,000 East Timorese voters to decide on autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. Mr Annan said that more time was needed to ensure that a fair vote could be held.

East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975. Since then, more than two hundred thousand people are estimated to have died.