Subject: RT: Xanana calls for UN transition
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 1999 08:36:28 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

INTERVIEW-Forgive, forget, says Timor rebel chief 07:17 a.m. Feb 27, 1999 Eastern

By Terry Friel

JAKARTA, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Jailed East Timor rebel leader Xanana Gusmao called on Saturday for a U.N.-sponsored transitional government to guide his bloodied homeland to independence, backed by an unarmed international police force to keep the peace.

In an interview with Reuters, Gusmao also rejected a proposal by the territory's spiritual head, Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, for a South African style truth commission into past atrocities, saying it was time to forget the past and move forward.

``If East Timor rejects the autonomy option, a transitional government could be formed under the supervision of the United Nations for a transitional period in which we would build the basic infrastructure for independence,'' he said in his modest Jakarta bungalow where he is under house arrest.

``We need an international body in East Timor to monitor and to supervise the ceasefire process and the disarmament, on both sides...meanwhile ABRI (the Indonesian armed forces) must withdraw,'' he said, sitting under a crucifix flanked by painting of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

After 23 years of often brutal rule, Indonesia last month abruptly reversed its refusal to consider independence for the former Portuguese colony.

The government said it could let the eastern half of Timor island go it alone as soon as next January if the territory's 850,000 people rejected an offer of special autonomy within Indonesia.

Most analysts and observers say an overwhelming majority in the territory, invaded by Indonesian in 1975 and annexed the following year, favours independence. The United Nations and most Western countries do not recognise Jakarta's rule.

Gusmao, who spent 18 years in the rugged jungles and mountains of East Timor fighting Indonesian troops until his capture in 1992, said it was time for East Timor to move on and not be weighed down by past divisions.

``The past is the past and we have to guarantee peace for our future generations,'' he said, as the three young sons of one of his guards, a Timorese, played around him.

Gusmao, jailed in 1992 for 20 years, was moved two weeks ago to the small, four-bedroom home a few kilometres (miles) from his former prison cell in Jakarta's Cipinang prison, where he once met South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Indonesia, trying to rid itself of the expensive and embarrassing East Timor problem, has made Gusmao an integral part of negotiations about the future of the impoverished territory.

He sees a constant stream of visitors, including from various East Timorese factions, journalists and ministers from foreign governments. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is due to meet him next Friday.

Despite his popularity and his prominent role in the slow march towards independence, the charismatic Gusmao firmly ruled out being president of a newly independent east Timor.

``I know my people. Although I (have been for) six years far away from them I have been in contact with the people and I know that they love me. I love them more than anything.

``If I explain it is better if we choose the right person to lead the reconciliation process...they will accept it.

``The struggle period is different. The struggle period needs a leader to fight and the new country, the newborn country, needs a new leader to be the architect. The architect, not the fighter.

``I don't feel I am the architect, I feel I am the fighter.''

Gusmao said East Timor could survive as an independent nation, despite Indonesian President B.J. Habibie describing it as a stone around Indonesia's neck.

``We are not angry with Habibie. Habibie knows nothing about East Timor,'' he said. ``Although it is a stone, we will plant in this stone many, many flowers.''

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