|Subject: AKI: EU President Barroso Appeals
For National Dialogue
EAST TIMOR: EU PRESIDENT BARROSO APPEALS FOR NATIONAL DIALOGUE
Dili, 24 Jan. (AKI) - European Union president and former prime minister of Portugal, Jose Manuel Barroso, has appealed for national dialogue in East Timor, the violence-ridden former Portuguese colony. Information obtained by Adnkronos International (AKI) revealed that - in a letter addressed to East Timor's president, Xanana Gusmao and the country's prime minister, Jose Ramos Horta - Barroso has asked that the Fretilin political party and its secretary general, Mari Alkatiri, be included in any dialogue for the future of the country.
The letter is expected to be delivered to the two Timorese leaders this week, by the EU special representative to East Timor, Miguel Amada, who is presently in the country.
Alkatiri was forced to resign last June, after unrest led to the death of 37 people. The violence was spurred by Alkatiri's decision to dismiss 600 soldiers who were on strike after complaining of racial discriminations within the army. During the unrest, Alkatiri and Gusmao squared off in what most observers described as a power struggle. Alkatiri was replaced by Horta, who is seen as a close ally of Gusmao.
Fretilin is the country's largest political party, and Alkatiri is still considered the frontrunner in the national election, slated for next May.
The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonised it in mid-century. Lisbon maintained control until East Timor declared itself independent on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. The 800,000 inhabitants of the tiny Southeast Asian country voted for independence in 1999 and gained this status in May 2002.
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