Subject: Portugal, E.Timorese Pledge Joint Reconstruction Effort

Dow Jones Newswires October 1, 1999

Portugal, E.Timorese Pledge Joint Reconstruction Effort

LISBON (AP)--Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Guterres and East Timor independence leader Jose Alexandre Gusmao pledged Friday to work together to transform the devastated territory into a functioning independent state.

During a meeting in Lisbon, Guterres and Gusmao agreed to set up a liaison group charged with elaborating a technical, financial and political cooperation plan for East Timor - a former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesian forces since 1975.

"Portugal, with its historic responsibilities, emerged in these crucial times as the one (country) on which East Timor can count on completely," Gusmao told reporters in Lisbon.

There was no information on how much financial aid Portugal will give to help rebuild the territory devastated by a campaign of terror launched by pro-Indonesian forces after an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted to break away from Jakarta's rule in an Aug. 30 referendum.

An Australian-led multinational peacekeeping force has since been flown in to try to restore order.

Known popularly by his nickname Xanana, the former guerrilla commander who is widely expected to become independent East Timor's first elected president, arrived in Portugal Friday for a two-day visit.

He had already visited Australia and the U.S. on a tour in search of international help to rebuild his homeland.

The liaison group charged with elaborating Portugal's cooperation plan will be comprised of Portuguese officials and members of the pro-independence East Timorese resistance to Indonesia's often brutal rule.

"The suffering has united us in a way which words can't express," Gusmao told reporters after talks with President Jorge Sampaio earlier Friday.

Portugal was preparing East Timor's independence in 1975 when Indonesia invaded the half-island territory and later annexed it. The Portuguese have retained strong emotional ties with the East Timorese, and express a sense of guilt about their suffering under Jakarta's rule.

Thousands of people, among them East Timorese exiles, converged in an emotional rally outside the Republican Assembly, Portugal's parliament, to hail Gusmao, shouting "Timor will win."

"Timor will not win, because it has already won," the charismatic leader said from a balcony.

The champion of East Timor's independence movement arrived in Portugal accompanied by Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta and Mario Carrascalao, a former East Timorese adviser to Indonesian President B. J. Habibie.

Before leaving Sunday, Gusmao was scheduled to meet with the East Timorese community in Lisbon and the spiritual leader of East Timor, Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, who was in Lisbon en route to Darwin.


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