Subject: etpost - AFP/BBC: Kofi Annan: Indon reaffirms pledge to release Gusmao
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 09:10:53 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

*Indonesia reaffirms pledge to release Gusmao: Kofi Annan

SYDNEY, March 14 (AFP) - The Indonesian government remained committed to releasing resistance leader Jose Xanana Gusmao from house arrest, possibly before a vote on the future of East Timor, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an interview screened here.

Eighteen other political prisoners also would be released, he told Australian broadcaster SBS television late Saturday.

"On Friday the government reaffirmed its commitment to us that Xanana Gusmao will be released as part of the overall settlement that we are discussing, so I am hoping that he will be free before the actual vote takes place," he said.

Gusmao was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment, later reduced to 20 years, for leading the bloody resistance war against Indonesian forces which invaded the former Portugese colony in 1975.

He was moved to house arrest from Jakarta's Cipinang prison earlier this year.

The UN was central to the push to allow Gusmao to be held under house arrest so he would have greater freedom to talk to supporters and foreign visitors over Indonesian President B.J. Habibie's proposals to give the province autonomy.

Annan said there were still problems to overcome in determining East Timor's future, such as the logistics of organising a ballot within the region and for East Timorese living around the world, but he was hopeful of a positive outcome.

"We would want Australian contribution," he said.

"We have approached Australia and many other countries with capacity and interest in the problem to work with us in bringing it to a successful conclusion, so we will be relying on Australian support and contribution as we would with other countries."

He said the UN had to be seen to be organising a transparent ballot for a free East Timor.

"What is important is how credible the entire process is and if the flaws that one perceives are such as to negate the results of the entire elections ... we will try to ensure that it is credible, it is democratic, it is free, it is well organised and only those who are entitled to vote are admitted at the ballot box," he said.

"I think a team of electoral experts will be working with us, not only in East Timor, but in the diaspora to determine who is eligible to vote."

--- BBC Sunday, March 14, 1999

Annan urges Australian role in East Timor

The United Nations is relying on Australia to play a key role in ensuring a peaceful independence vote in East Timor later this year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said.

Speaking on Australian television, Mr Annan said the UN would be sending a team to East Timor next week to start reviewing its options in advance of the poll.

"At this stage, I would not be able to define whether it is going to be military, police or just political, but we will have a competent UN presence which we will build up as we move towards the day of the ballot," the UN secretary-general told SBS television.

"We would want Australian contribution. We have approached Australia and many other countries with capacity and interest in the problem to work with us in bringing it to a successful conclusion."

Australia has previously said it believes a UN sanctioned force - including civilians and police - may be required in East Timor, and has pledged to help in the most appropriate way.

It last week increased the number of troops held ready for rapid deployment due to regional unrest and cited trouble in East Timor as an eventuality for which it wanted to be prepared.

Vote on future

Mr Annan announced on Thursday that Indonesia and former colonial ruler Portugal had agreed on how to determine East Timor's future.

<Picture: [ image: People are campaigning for East Timor's independence]>

He said the East Timorese people would be given a direct vote on whether they wanted autonomy or complete independence from Indonesia.

However, details of the ballot have still to be finalised, with Indonesia and Portugal set to meet again in April.

Indonesian President BJ Habibie in January offered East Timor independence if an earlier offer of special autonomy was rejected. Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it in 1976.

No Indonesian withdrawal

Mr Annan said the UN was not at present planning to ask Indonesia to withdraw its troops in East Timor, but would insist that they act democratically to ensure law and order ahead of the vote.

It was not realistic, he said, to expect that the Indonesian army, or any militia groups, could be disarmed before the vote, which he hoped would take place in July or August.

Mr Annan said he was keen to ensure that the voting process was credible.

"We will try to ensure that it is credible, it is democratic, it is free, it is well organised and only those who are entitled to vote are admitted at the ballot box."

Portuguese arrival

Mr Annan's pledge coincided with the arrival of the first Portuguese diplomat in East Timor since Indonesia annexation.

Arriving in the capital Dili, Ana Gomes - Portugal's representative in Indonesia - said: "I am here to tell the Timorese people that the whole people of Portugal are supporting them ... and also to thank them for their extraordinary example."

Just hours before her arrival, the Indonesian military staged a massive riot control exercise in the capital as violence continues between pro and anti independence groups in the territory.

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