Subject: AP: Xanana's press conference

Gusmao puts brakes on high expectations in E. Timor

October 23, 1999 Web posted at: 10:37 PM HKT (1437 GMT)

DILI, East Timor (AP) -- East Timor independence leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao tried on Saturday to ease the high expectations created by his return to his devastated homeland.

"I am not a savior. I can't solve all the problems," the popular Gusmao said at the U.N. compound in the capital, Dili, a day after his triumphant, emotional arrival.

Appearing almost intoxicated by his return, which drew thousands of cheering, weeping people to his first open-air speech, he addressed reporters amid tight security, flanked by bodyguards and international peacekeeping troops.

Gusmao said he plans to be in East Timor "for the rest of my life" but that despite widespread speculation that he will be the new nation's first president, he does not aspire to the top job.

Still, he didn't rule out being drafted into the position, which will not be filled until after a two- to three-year transitional period under U.N. auspices.

"I left as a guerrilla fighter, and I'm returning as a guerrilla fighter," he said, dressed in a uniform of the Falintil guerrilla group over a white T-shirt. "I am proud to be a member of Falintil, but I never wanted to be a president."

Gusmao spent seven years in prison and under house arrest in Indonesia for his rebel activities. He was freed days after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly on August. 30 for independence from Indonesia, which invaded in 1975.

The results of the U.N.-supervised referendum sparked a rampage by pro-Jakarta militias and their Indonesian military backers that leveled much of the half-island territory and caused most of the 850,000 people to flee their homes. The multinational peacekeeping force arrived September. 20 to restore order.

"I came to start working with my companions to begin sweeping up the ashes and plant the seeds of hope," said Gusmao, whose return was seen as a beacon for people who have come in from the hills to find their homes burned out.

Gusmao said reconciliation was possible with the militiamen, some of whom have launched cross-border attacks on the peacekeepers from Indonesian-held West Timor.

"The only condition to come back is to accept, with honesty, that they have to confess their crimes to the people," he said.

At a meeting Saturday morning with Taufik Soedarba, chief of Indonesia's task force to East Timor, he said he asked the Indonesian government to stem the flow of guns to West Timor.

"From both sides there were signs of a willingness to work together," Gusmao said. "For the sake of a good future relationship, we should take steps now to allow people to come back, and they should stop supporting militia activities."


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