Subject: LUSA: Bishops' 'no-show' a "breakdown in communication" - Gusmão

East Timor: Bishops' 'no-show' a "breakdown in communication" - Gusmão

Dili, May 5 (Lusa) - President Xanana Gusmão said Thursday that the non-appearance of East Timor's two Catholic bishops to sign a deal ending a dispute between the church and government was due to a "breakdown in communication" between the parties involved.

The bishops were sent a copy of government proposals earlier this week to end the 17-day-old power struggle between the Dili government and Timor's powerful Catholic Church, said Gusmão.

When they have studied these issues and added counter- proposals, the document will be returned to Timor's heads of state and government and a new signing ceremony will be fixed, he added.

Gusmão, attempting to broker the crisis, had earlier left his offices after waiting for the two prelates to sign the document and also had to turn away foreign diplomats who were arriving to witness the ceremony.

Dili's deputy bishop, Apolinário Guterres, told Lusa the Catholic leadership had no knowledge if the signing of the joint government-church declaration.

Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta's explanation on the two bishop's "no show" was that they were still working on the final version of the declaration, whose details have not been made public.

When the document is ready, the church leaders will advise us and a time will be fixed to sign the document, said Ramos Horta, adding that he expected the accord to be signed Friday.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, whose resignation has been demanded by church-led demonstrations since April 19, has said he hopes a negotiated settlement is still possible over church demands on religion classes in public schools and other issues, including anti-abortion and prostitution legislation.

"We+re all Timorese citizens, some spiritual and religious leaders and others political leaders", Alkatiri said. "We must have confidence in each other".

Since the dispute between the powerful Catholic Church and the government erupted into round-the-clock demonstrations in Dili over two weeks ago, Bishops da Silva of Dili and do Nascimento of Baucau have remained silent in public.

All public statements of commitment to a search for a negotiated compromise have come from the government and the presidency.

EL/SAS/CJB.

Lusa


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