|Subject: AFP: Philippines lifts ban on JRH
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 09:18:39 -0400
From: sonny inbaraj <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Philippines shifts policy on East Timor, lifts ban on Ramos-Horta
MANILA, July 11 (AFP) - The Philippines has shifted its policy on East Timor by lifting a ban on pro-independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta and officially meeting with Bishop Carlos Belo, a senior diplomat said Sunday.
Manila decided to lift the ban on Ramos-Horta visiting the company because the government has observed that the 48-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has a "moderating influence in East Timor," said the diplomat, who did not want to be named.
Philippine ambassador to Jakarta Leonides Caday also last week officially met with Bishop Belo in a three-day visit to Dili, during which he called for peace between warring pro-indepence and pro-integration factions.
The Philippine government had earlier maintained a ban on Ramos-Horta to keep a sound diplomatic relation with Jakarta, a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Previous attempts by Ramos-Horta to attend an international conference on East Timor in the Philippines, one in 1994 and in 1996, were blocked by the government.
Ramos-Horta has been in exile since Indonesia annexed the former Portugese colony in 1975, in a move that has never been recognized by the United Nations.
However, the Indonesian government has since agreed to hold a historic referendum in East Timor to determine its fate. Voting is tentatively scheduled for August 21-23.
Caday's three-day visit last week to Dili, the first made by a high-ranking diplomatic official from an ASEAN country, focused on the preparations being done by UN and Indonesian officials for the upcoming polls.
The Philippines is the only ASEAN member among the six countries picked by President BJ Habibie to assist in the referendum. Manila earlier sent six policemen to serve in the 280-man unarmed civilian police group.