Subject: Ximenes Belo calls for dialogue with Islamist movements

Ponto Final Macau

Ximenes Belo calls for dialogue with Islamist movements Posted Mar 24, 2004 - 12:36 PM

East Timor's former Roman-Catholic bishop, Ximenes Belo, says he is ready to run for president of his impoverished country, but only outside party politics and with the green light from the Holy See

East Timor's former high-profile Roman-Catholic bishop, Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, says he may run for president "if this was the wish of all the people" of his impoverished homeland and calls for dialogue with Islamist movements.

The ex-bishop told Ponto Fina in Macau his possible candidacy would, however, depend on the green light from the Holy See. "A probable candidature must be independent , outside of [political] parties, and only with the support of the people," Belo was quoted by the newspaper in a report published on Wednesday.

Belo, who is known for his lively temperament, also said he thought, on the other hand, that "maintaining Xanana Gusmao in the presidency would be ideal."

Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao became East Timor's first freely elected president in May 2002, when the half-island recovered its independent statehood from nearly three decades of temporary rule by the UN, brutal military occupation by Indonesia and four centuries of Portuguese colonialism. Gusmao, who in 2002 garnered 82.7 per cent of the votes, said earlier this year he would not run for a second five-year term because he was "tired." The next presidential election is slated for 2007.

Belo resigned as bishop of Dili, the capital of East Timor, last year. He arrived in Macau on Monday for a two-week visit to do historic research at the archives of Macau's Catholic diocese.

The 56-year old bishop, who was the spiritual leader of East Timor's resistance to Indonesian rule, also told Ponto Final that the world's major powers should open a dialogue with Islamist groups to find a solution to terrorism, claiming that dialogue was the only way of "demonstrating to the terrorists that the solution to conflicts does not pass through violence."

Belo insisted, "The West, namely the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan and Canada, should sit across the table with Muslim leaders to solve the problems and try to ensure a greater distribution of wealth among all," adding that a lack of investments in the Middle East and an "enormous" lack of interest in the Muslim world were among the main causes of terrorism.

Belo also urged the United States to use all its political, economic and military force to promote new talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The former bishop also called for the creation of a European Union-style system between Israel and Palestine that would function as sovereign nations but depend on common regulatory institutions.

East Timor, which is about half the size of Taiwan and has some 800,000 residents, is one of the world's poorest countries.

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