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Subject: RT: Alatas denies Gusmao to be freed soon
Date: Wed, 08 Jul 1998 20:19:54 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Indonesia's Alatas denies Gusmao to be freed soon 11:55 a.m. Jul 08, 1998 Eastern

JAKARTA, July 8 (Reuters) - Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas on Wednesday denied a Lisbon newspaper report that the government was planning to release jailed East Timor guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao any time soon.

He told reporters after a meeting with President B.J. Habibie that the release of Gusmao, who has been in a Jakarta jail since 1992, would have to be part of a global solution on the future of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed a year later.

``That is our basic position -- it is part of a global solution,'' Alatas said. ``It is not true he will be released in coming days. The situation is being confused.''

``He can only be released... as part of an overall solution. There is no change in that position.''

Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias on Wednesday quoted Alatas as saying that Gusmao, the most visible opponent of Indonesia's rule of the territory, would be released ``in the coming days.''

Habibie told Reuters last month he would consider releasing Gusmao if the international community accepted a solution for East Timor, which included Indonesia's continued sovereignty over the territory.

He has promised special status for the Roman Catholic-dominated territory but has not specified what this might mean.

Foreign leaders in Jakarta have said there is some progress on East Timor.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday on an official visit, said there were some hopeful signs.

``It is important that there is the development of a dialogue between all of the relevant parties. There are some signs that that is starting to happen, we obviously welcome that,'' Downer said on his arrival.

Germany's Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer said at the end of a four-day visit on Wednesday he had discussed East Timor at length with Habibie.

``President Habibie expressed his resolve to open a window of opportunity for negotiations...with all parties concerned over substantial autonomy for East Timor,'' Hoyer said.

``I have the feeling that there is serious and interesting movement at present and we certainly encourage that movement,'' he said.

The United Nations has sponsored tripartite discussions with Indonesia and Portugal over East Timor and special observer Jamsheed Marker is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta later this month.

He is also to visit Dili, the East Timor capital.

Separatist demonstrations have broken out in East Timor in recent weeks as political reform spread in Indonesia following the resignation of long-ruling and autocratic president Suharto in May.

At least three people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and troops.

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