Subject: AP: Indonesian presidential candidate hold talks with East Timor leader

Indonesian presidential candidate hold talks with East Timor leader

May 29, 2004 9:15am Associated Press WorldStream

BALI, Indonesia_An Indonesian presidential candidate indicted for war crimes in East Timor met on Saturday with that fledgling nation's leader in an apparent effort at reconciliation ahead of the July 5 vote.

Gen. Wiranto met with East Timor President Xanana Gusmao at a luxury hotel in the resort island of Bali. The men shook hands, hugged and laughed when they greeted each other but said nothing to reporters. Before Wiranto left for Bali, however, he said the meeting was between "two old friends who once fought because of our duty to the nation."

A U.N.-backed special tribunal issued an arrest warrant for Wiranto in early May for his alleged role in the 1999 violence, when East Timor held a referendum on independence. Wiranto headed Indonesia's army at the time of the vote.

The referendum sparked a murderous rampage by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies, which also destroyed much of East Timor's infrastructure.

Last year, U.N. prosecutors working in the tiny nation indicted Wiranto for his alleged command responsibility for "murder, deportation and persecution" committed during 1999.

Wiranto has denied any wrongdoing, saying the indictment was an effort to undermine his candidacy in the July 5 presidential elections.

Gusmao had said he would not support the charges against Wiranto, arguing that improving relations with Indonesia is more important than seeking justice for the victims of the massacres.

Saturday's meeting sparked anger in East Timor.

"Gusmao is playing into the hands of this presidential candidate. He is embracing a man accused of evil crimes. It's demeaning to the victims of the 1999 violence," said Jose Oliveria, the head of Yayasan Hak, a legal aid foundation in East Timor's capital of Dili.

East Timor became the world's newest nation in 2001 after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations. The world body still keeps a small peacekeeping force, provides technical assistance, and funds efforts to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice.

As many as 200,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died during Indonesia's two-decade occupation as a result of military operations, starvation and disease.


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