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Subject: RT: Alatas contradicts self on Xanana
Date: Wed, 08 Jul 1998 07:08:06 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <etan@etan.org>

Indonesia to free E.Timor rebel chief, paper says 05:58 a.m. Jul 08, 1998 Eastern

By David Brough

LISBON, July 8 (Reuters) - A Lisbon newspaper on Wednesday quoted Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas as saying his government would free East Timorese guerrilla chief Xanana Gusmao in the coming days as part of a ``global solution'' for the territory.

But local radio said the remarks contradicted a statement to Portuguese state broadcaster RTP on Tuesday in which Alatas said Gusmao would not be freed yet because he was a common criminal and not a political prisoner.

Alatas told the respected Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias in an interview: ``When Xanana will be released I cannot say, but it will be in the coming days. It is part of a global solution.''

He added: ``Xanana was sentenced for killings, robberies and setting fires in villages. But we are ready to give him an amnesty as part of a global solution.''

Since taking power on May 21, Indonesian President B.J. Habibie has freed 16 political prisoners, most of them East Timorese who were jailed for protesting against Indonesia's rule of the Pacific territory.

Speaking at Indonesia's Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, Alatas said that after Gusmao was freed, he could pursue politics.

``Xanana Gusmao will be free to do what he wants. He could become a candidate for governor (of East Timor) and take part in all the political activities that he wants,'' he told the paper.

Alatas did not elaborate on what he called a ``global solution,'' but President Habibie has said he was willing to consider ``special status'' for East Timor to resolve the long-running dispute over the former Portuguese colony.

Gusmao was jailed in 1992 for 20 years for armed rebellion against Jakarta's rule in East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later. The international community has never recognised the annexation.

Timorese Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta said the contradictory reports underlined a lack of coordination by Indonesian authorities in relation to East Timor.

``The (Indonesian) government is conscious that Xanana must be freed as soon as possible,'' he told TSF radio. ``But the regime faces internal pressures (not to free Gusmao).''

Ramos-Horta was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 along with the Roman Catholic bishop of Dili, Carlos Ximenes Belo, for their efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the East Timorese issue.

Gusmao and Ramos-Horta are seeking self-determination for the people of East Timor.

Alatas told Diario de Noticias that Portugal would have to take the first step towards renewing diplomatic relations with Indonesia.

``Portugal will have to make the first gesture because it was Portugal that cut relations with Indonesia,'' he said.

``We are willing to have diplomatic representation, at the level of representative offices. We would favour having two Portuguese diplomats in a foreign embassy in Jakarta, and two of our diplomats in Lisbon,'' he added.

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