|Subject: AP - Gus Dur Meets E.Timor Rebel Chief
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February 1, 1999
Prominent Indonesia Muslim Leader Meets E.Timor Rebel Chief
JAKARTA (AP)--After meeting East Timor's jailed guerrilla chief, an influential Muslim leader said Tuesday that the people of the Indonesian- controlled territory should decide their political future.
The remarks by Abdurrahman Wahid followed a surprise offer last week from Indonesia to consider independence for East Timor if its people rejected an autonomy proposal.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later. Separatist guerrilla fighting and human rights abuses have plagued the half-island territory ever since.
Wahid, a government critic who is considered a possible presidential candidate, said he opposed independence for East Timor but acknowledged the decision was not his to make.
"As an Indonesian citizen, I want East Timor to be part of Indonesia," Wahid said after meeting separatist rebel Xanana Gusmao. "But the future of East Timor fully depends on East Timorese and Xanana."
Wahid visited Gusmao at Jakarta's Cipinang jail, where he presented the East Timorese rebel with a traditional batik shirt. Gusmao gave Wahid a traditional scarf from East Timor.
Gusmao is waiting to be moved to a house owned by the Indonesian justice ministry near the prison. He has welcomed the move to more comfortable surroundings, saying it will allow him greater freedom to help in efforts to reach a peaceful settlement in East Timor.
U.N.-sponsored talks between Indonesia and Portugal, which the United Nations still considers the administering power, have gained momentum in recent months.