|Subject: LUSA: Gusmao Meets Powell in
Washington, US Promises Continued Support
East Timor: Gusmao Meets Powell in Washington, US Promises Continued Support 16 Mai-20:55
The United States have promised to continue supporting the transition process and future democratic institutions in East Timor, independence leader Xanana Gusmao said Wednesday in Washington after meeting with the US secretary of state, Colin Powell.
Gusmao, who heads East Timor's CNRT umbrella leadership group, was accompanied at the meeting by the territory's top diplomat, Jose Ramos Horta.
"The secretary of state recalled the difficulties of our struggle but noted that this phase is even more difficult. He guaranteed us continual support and that the United States will do everything to continue backing the transition", Gusmao said.
East Timor, which had been occupied by Indonesia for 24 years, voted for independence in 1999 and has since been governed by a UN administration charged with overseeing the transition to full independence, likely within the next year.
Gusmao and Ramos Horta began Wednesday a visit to United States, including the first high-level contacts with the Bush administration. On Thursday they are to meet with various members of the US Congress.
Topics discussed during the meeting with Powell included East Timor's upcoming Aug. 30 constituent assembly elections, efforts to repatriate East Timorese refugees from Indonesia and the trial of war criminals.
"We expressed our lack of trust in the Indonesian authorities, who keep making promises about the militias and refugees (in Indonesian West Timor), but there's never any progress", Ramos Horta said.
The 1996 Nobel Peace co-laureate reiterated that a Jakarta court's recent decision to sentence defendants accused of killing UN aid workers in West Timor last September to overly short prison terms was an "affront to all".
"There is no alternative but for the UN Security Council and secretary general to set up an international war crimes tribunal", he added.
Ramos Horta also said that East Timor was "very grateful" for American military aid during the transition process.
Shortly before he and Gusmao were to meet with the US deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfenson, Ramos Horta emphasized the desire for American military involvement in East Timor to continue. Various port calls in Dili by US warships that have delivered humanitarian aid are also a "symbolic gesture", he recalled.
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