Subject: AFP: Indos don't see Xanana as bargaining chip
Date: Fri, 08 Jan 1999 09:51:34 +1200
From: sonny inbaraj <ausasia@ozemail.com.au> Organization: The AustralAsian

Indonesia does not see Xanana as a bargaining chip: Alatas

JAKARTA, Jan 7 (AFP) - The Indonesian government has no intention to use jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao as a bargaining chip in the negotiations for a settlement of the drawn-out East Timor issue, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said Thursday

"Indonesia is not, repeat, has no intention to turn Xanana Gusmao into a bargaining chip and never has had such an intention," Alatas told a press conference.

Xanana is currently serving a 20 year jail sentence in Jakarta's Cipinang prison for plotting against the Indonesian state and illegal possession of weapons.

Calls have grown from foreign leaders and organisations for his release, with many arguing that he could help efforts to search for a peaceful settlement of the former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975.

Alatas reiterated Jakarta's point of view that although Xanana was not "a common criminal" his immediate release was impossible since it would incur the protests of those directly affected by his actions as leader of the armed wing of the East Timorese pro-independence movement.

He said the government of President B.J. Habibie had so far released 52 East Timorese political prisoners and the remaining 17 would soon be released.

But Xanana would remain in jail, he said.

"We are prepared to free him, give him full amnesty ... when we have reached an agreement (on East Timor)," Alatas said.

The release would be "part and parcel of a solution and not prior to a solution," he said.

Alatas said the argument whereby Xanana's release was necessary to help efforts to seek a solution to the East Timor question was not valid as Xanana was already been indirectly involved.

He pointed to the continous stream of foreign dignitaries visiting him in prison, including the special envoy on East Timor of the UN secretary general, Jamsheed Marker.

The United Nations, which continues to regard Lisbon as the official administrator in East Timor, is currently sponsoring peace talks on the territory between Indonesia and Portugal.

Officials of the two countries are now negotiating the substance of a proposal for autonomy for East Timor made by Habibie.

Habibie succeeded former president Suharto who ordered the 1975 invasion and annexed the territory a year later .

Alatas reiterated Jakarta's stance that the wide-ranging autonomy would be accorded in the framework of an East Timor that is part of Indonesia.

"This is a final settlement compromise ... this is a settlement which according to us is the most realistic, most viable and holds the largest prospect of peace," he said.

Commenting on the demands of many East Timorese, including Xanana, for an eventual referendum on self determination in East Timor, he said such a move maybe in theory more democratic, but may not be appropriate in practice.

"Even if there were no bloodshed (following the referendum) the results may not be accepted by the side which lost," he said.

A referendum will only reopen old wounds, open conflicts," he said.

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