Subject: RT: Congressmembers say free Xanana
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 09:37:29 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Free East Timor rebel chief, say U.S. congressmen 07:37 a.m. Jan 13, 1999 Eastern

JAKARTA, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Three U.S. congressmen met jailed East Timorese guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao on Wednesday and urged the Indonesian government to release him.

``It is important for East Timorese, it is important for humanitarian reasons that Mr Gusmao be released,'' said representative Doug Bereuter, a Nebraska Republican who is leading the delegation on its four-day Indonesian visit.

Gusmao was captured in 1992 and is serving a 20-year sentence for his role in leading East Timorese rebels fighting Indonesian rule in the impoverished territory.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it in 1976 in a move still not recognised by the United Nations.

Bereuter, who heads the House subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, told reporters Congress would support any resolution decided by the East Timorese, Indonesia and Portugal.

``We have no prescription, we have no American solution but we are impatient to see Jamsheed Marker (U.N. special envoy on East Timor) successfully achieve an agreement among those three parties,'' said Bereuter.

He declined to comment on the meeting with Gusmao.

The three congressmen were visiting Indonesia to assess the nation's social and economic plight. Indonesia is mired in its worst economic and political crisis in 30 years.

On Tuesday, Gusmao called for East Timor to become an autonomous region within Indonesia for a period before achieving full independence.

``We need a certain period of time to eliminate all the feelings of hatred and vengeance, and create true harmony based on respect and democracy,'' Gusmao, serving a 20-year jail term, said in a New Year message carried by Portuguese news agency Lusa.

Gusmao said East Timor needed a 10-year transition period before achieving self-determination.

Australia, the only Western nation to recognise Indonesian rule there, changed its policy this week and said it too supported a period of autonomy after which East Timorese could decide whether to remain within Indonesia or become independent.

Indonesian officials denied any plans to give East Timor independence. Jakarta fears independence would spark the political disintegration of the vast Indonesian archipelago.

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