Subject: LUSA: Belo says population should wait 10-15 years for referendum
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 07:30:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <email@example.com>
16 JUN 98 - 10:03 East Timor: Timorese bishop says population should wait 10-15 years for referendum
Sydney, 16 Jun (Lusa) - The population of East Timor should be patient and wait between 10 to 15 years before voting in a referendum to decide over the future of the territory, the Bishop of Dili, D. Ximenes Belo told an Australian newspaper in the weekend.
Belo, quoted by newspaper "The Australian", said that, "we have to be prepared. I do not agree with the realisation of a referendum now. We have to have concrete proposals".
The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate called also for Indonesian President Jusuf Habibie to reduce immediately the military presence in the territory as a "gesture of sincerity", adding that he had some doubts over Jakarta's promises that it was prepared to assume a more conciliatory position towards East Timor.
Belo said that the negotiations with Indonesia should be concentrated in the attempt to find more autonomy for the territory, establishing a "transition" period so that the population could be better informed over the options it could choose.
The bishop said that he had invited Habibie to visit East Timor to explain him what he considered to be a "special status" for East Timor.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it one year later but the UN still regards Portugal as the territory's administering power.
Portugal has supported the East Timorese resistance's claim for a referendum to decide over the future of the territory. Lusa/Fim
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