Subject: Xanana: no reconciliation without justice

East Timor says no reconciliation without justice

CANBERRA, June 17 (Reuters) - Militiamen responsible for violence when East Timor voted for independence could not expect reconciliation without first facing justice, President Xanana Gusmao said on his first official overseas visit on Monday.

The leader of the world's newest nation said the re-integration of those seeking forgiveness was a major challenge for tiny, impoverished East Timor.

Pro-Jakarta militias backed by elements of Indonesia's military rampaged through East Timor during a 1999 vote to end 24 years of often brutal Jakarta rule. The United Nations estimates more than 1,000 people were killed before and after the vote.

"We are now trying our best to bring back our countrymen, including former militias and former militia commanders, and they already know when they come back there will be a trial," Gusmao told a news conference in the Australian capital.

"It will not be reconciliation without justice," said Gusmao who is on a four-day visit to Australia.

Up to a quarter of the population was herded across the border into Indonesian West Timor after the vote and some former militia members remain among the 50,000 or so refugees still in West Timor and who now seek to return home.

Gusmao, jailed for seven years by Jakarta for leading East Timor's resistance movement, downplayed international concerns that Indonesia was not doing enough to punish those responsible.

"Let's give them the opportunity to prove to the international community there's goodwill in this matter," said Gusmao, who easily won a presidential election in April.

"What concerns me is East Timorese, and to be more clear, East Timorese militia and the militia commanders," he said.

Gusmao expressed his gratitude for Australia's help in his country's transition to independence and said he wanted to discuss his country's future with East Timor's near neighbour.

Australia led an international peace enforcement mission into East Timor after the independence ballot turned violent, souring Canberra's already rocky relationship with Indonesia.

Impoverished East Timor is keen to attract investment to support its tiny economy and rebuild after the violence.

Offshore petroleum reserves are set to be major source of income. East Timor and Australia signed a landmark treaty in May to tap the oil and gas, an economic lifeline that could be worth billions of dollars.

The two sides have agreed to divide royalties 90:10 in East Timor's favour from the reserves in the Timor Sea, although the final details are under negotiation.

Gusmao said his government and Canberra would also work to resolve differences over maritime boundaries.

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