Subject: AFP: Indonesia welcomes Gusmao as new East Timor PM

Indonesia welcomes Gusmao as new East Timor PM


Indonesia today welcomed the swearing-in of East Timor's new prime minister Xanana Gusmao, who had led a resistance movement against Jakarta during its 24-year occupation of the tiny nation. Jakarta ruled East Timor after invading in 1975, but guerrillas waged battle against Indonesian forces until the East Timorese voted to break away in 1999. The country formally gained independence in 2002.

The Indonesian government welcomes the assignment of Xanana Gusmao as prime minister," Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo said.

We hope that both countries will continue to cooperate and improve their bilateral relations," he told reporters.

Gusmao was captured by Indonesian forces, accused of subversion and jailed in 1992. He continued, however, to direct the resistance movement from behind bars in Jakarta and was freed in 1999, a year after the fall of dictator Suharto ushered in a new era of democracy for Indonesia, and just hours after his compatriots voted for independence. Gusmao was voted in as president of the impoverished nation in 2002. He stepped down earlier this year after starting a new political party ahead of June's elections, in which no party won the absolute majority needed to govern.

Gusmao's party formed a coalition in the wake of the polls with the necessary majority, and East Timor's new president Jose Ramos-Horta appointed Gusmao to his new job this week.

The move triggered violence from those sympathetic to the former ruling party, Fretilin, which has labelled the new administration illegal.

Legowo said that Indonesia hoped the new Timorese government could calm the sporadic unrest which has hit in Dili and several other towns.

What happened there is fully a domestic affair... but we do hope that the Timorese government can immediately settle the problem," he said.

The period around East Timor's 1999 referendum was marred by an orgy of violence and destruction that left an estimated 1,400 people dead. It was blamed largely on militias backed by the Indonesian military.

East Timor's leaders have taken a largely conciliatory stand towards its more powerful neighbour since independence, arguing it must be practical and push relations forward. - AFP

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