Subject: LUSA: Gusmao, Belo Meet Durao Barroso, Defend Portugal-Indonesia Dialogue

01 Aug 01 19:29 East Timor: Gusmao, Belo Meet Durao Barroso, Defend Portugal-Indonesia Dialogue

Continued dialogue between Portugal and Indonesia will be beneficial for the future of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo said Wednesday after meeting with the visiting Portuguese opposition leader, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso.

Gusmao, the historic leader of the territory's independence struggle, and Belo, the Catholic bishop of Dili and a 1996 Nobel Peace co-laureate, were reacting to criticism of Durao Barroso's Monday meeting in Jakarta with former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas.

"What's needed is to look to the future. If we work for reconciliation among the Timorese, then reconciliation should also be sought at the international and diplomatic level", Belo said, adding that East Timor only stands to gain from good relations between Jakarta and Lisbon.

The bishop's position was echoed by Gusmao, who emphasized that "the past is the past and what is necessary now is to use all elements of good will to face a difficult process", referring to East Timor's ongoing transition to full independence.

The territory, which was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years until 1999, is currently governed by a UN transition administration, with independence expected next year.

Durao Barroso, the leader of Portugal's main opposition Social Democrats (PSD) and a former foreign minister, had earlier Wednesday arrived in East Timor on a three-day visit, after a controversy- provoking stay in the Indonesian capital.

During his tour of East Timor, Durao Barroso, who was met by Gusmao at Dili airport, will hold talks with UN administration and Timorese political and religious leaders.

He is also scheduled to visit Portuguese UN peacekeeping forces and travel to eastern Baucau, the territory's second biggest town.

In arrival comments, Durao Barroso downplayed criticism in Lisbon of his meeting Monday in Jakarta with former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas as "small partisan bickering".

The Portuguese embassy dinner with Alatas, with whom Durao Barroso negotiated East Timor issues in the early 1990s, when the two were foreign ministers, was a matter of "statesmanship", aimed "to constructively involve" former occupier Indonesia in East Timor's "independence process", the PSD leader said.

In Lisbon, the spokesman for the ruling Socialists, Jose Lamego, and the party's youth organization on Tuesday strongly criticized Durao Barroso´s meeting with Alatas as inopportune and counter- productive.

JBC/SAS -Lusa-

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