Subject: AFP: E. Timorese leaders to hold meeting over fate of territory
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 21:41:44 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

E. Timorese leaders to hold meeting over fate of territory

*East Timorese leaders to hold meeting over fate of territory

JAKARTA, Feb 24 (AFP) - Leaders of various East Timorese factions will hold a meeting to discuss the future of the troubled territory, a senior East Timorese official said here Wednesday

"We have conveyed to the president the wishes of East Timorese leaders in Indonesia to hold a meeting to talk about the settlement of the question of East Timor," Indonesia's roving ambassador for the East Timor issue, Fransicus Xaverius Lopez da Cruz, said.

Speaking after meeting with President B.J. Habibie, the East Timor-born Da Cruz said the talks, which will involve pro-Indonesia, pro-independence and neutral East Timorese factions, were primarily aimed at discussing the two options presented by Jakarta.

Jakarta last month said that it was prepared to let go of East Timor, which it annexed 23 years ago, if the population there rejected broad autonomy under Indonesia.

The autonomy package is currently being finalized in talks between Indonesia and Portugal under the auspices of the United Nations.

"Hopefully on March 8 or March 11, it will be announced, after Portugal signs it," Da Cruz said of the autonomy plan, the details of which have yet to be announced.

"I am optimistic because the last tripartite talks have shown progress, " he said.

He said that during his meeting with Habibie, he had discussed the two options presented to the East Timorese people.

Da Cruz said Habibie approved of the plan and "we will convene the meeting as soon as possible."

He declined to say when or where the meeting would take place, but firmly ruled out the house where East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao is being held as a venue. But he did not say whether Gusmao would be invited.

Gusmao, currently serving a 20 year jail term for plotting against the state and illegal weapon possession, was moved from his jail to house detention on February 10. Authorities said the move was to facilitate his participation in seeking a peaceful solution to the East Timor problem.

Da Cruz said the meeting would involve only East Timorese leaders residing in Indonesia (including East Timor) but he did not out the possibility that further meetings would also involve exiled East Timorese figures.

Asked whether exiled pro-independence activist Jose Ramos Horta could be invited here if the talks were expanded, Cruz rsaid: "If there is further thinking about that, we may consider it."

Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with East Timorese Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo, who has been a staunch defender of the rights of the people of East Timor.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year, although the move has never been recognised by the United Nations.

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