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Subject: RT: Portugal says self-determination crucial
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 15:37:05 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Portugal says self-determination crucial for Timor 12:31 p.m. Jul 31, 1998 Eastern

LISBON, July 31 (Reuters) - Portugal said on Friday it expected Indonesia to flesh out ideas on East Timor at a meeting next week, but added there could be no surrendering of the right of the territory's people to decide their future.

Foreign Minister Jaime Gama told journalists the substance of various recent proposals should emerge at a U.N.-brokered encounter with his Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas set for New York on August 4-5.

``In New York, we will try to evaluate better the proposals that Indonesia has been making,'' Gama said. ``(But) self-determination is an essential element,'' he added.

Indonesia has begun pulling some troops out of East Timor which it overran and then annexed in 1976 after Portugal, the former colonial power withdrew. The occupation has never been recognised by the United Nations.

In a further bid to defuse diplomatic tension, heightened by accusations of human rights abuses by security forces, Jakarta has also recently offered special status with a degree of autonomy for the territory of 800,000 people.

But it is adamant that there can be no referendum or popular vote about the territory's future, saying such a ballot would risk stirring political violence.

Portugal and East Timorese resistance groups, however, say there can be no final accord on Timor without the people being consulted.

The Portuguese constitution even binds the Lisbon government to ``safeguard the right to self-determination and independence of East Timor.''

The search for a solution to the question of Timor has intensified following the fall of hardline former president Suharto, who lost power in May amidst unprecedented political and economic turmoil.

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