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Subject: AFP: Australia urges Indonesia to release Xanana
Date: Wed, 19 Aug 1998 20:13:44 +0900
From: The AustralAsian <>

Australia urges Indonesia to release ETimor leader Xanana Gusmao

Wed 19 Aug 98 - 09:01 GMT

CANBERRA, Aug 19 (AFP) - Australia urged Jakarta Wednesday to release jailed East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao as part of solving the impasse on the disputed Indonesian territory.

It is the first time Canberra has made such an explicit call for his freedom.

"We would favour the release of Xanana Gusmao in the context of a process of reconciliation and settlement in East Timor," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told a human rights conference.

"Australia recognises that Xanana Gusmao has a central role in the resolution of the East Timor issue."

The statement follows a recent secret meeting between Gusmao and Australian ambassador in Indonesia John McCarthy to gain his views on the island's future.

Gusmao, leader of the Fretilin resistance group, was captured in 1992 and jailed for life for fighting against Indonesian control of East Timor.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later. Australia is the only country to formally recognise Indonesia's annexation.

Last week, East Timorese resistance leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta accused Downer of holding white supremacist views that verged on racism, because of his refusal to endorse a referendum for East Timorese independence.

The outburst followed Downer's attack on what he called "pop" solutions to the Timor conflict that could lead to more bloodshed.

But Downer said Australia was not limiting itself in seeking a solution to the East Timor tragedy.

"Australia strongly supports any process that would provide the East Timorese people with a significantly greater say in the running of their own affairs," he said.

"We want reconciliation among all East Timorese and between the East Timorese people and the government in Jakarta."

Any process which did not allow for this would not result in a fair and lasting solution, he added.

The AustralAsian For News, Views and Comments on the Asia-Pacific Visit

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