Subject: FT: E. Timor leadership plans congress on strategic issues

Also: Xanana Explains Why He Won't Be President

Financial Times Thursday February 3 2000

EAST TIMOR: Leadership plans congress on strategic issues

Ted Bardacke in Bangkok

The umbrella group representing the leadership of East Timor is planning to hold a national congress in August to decide on "major strategic options" for the country, including whether to join the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) or the South Pacific Forum.

The national congress will be an attempt to reach a "national consensus on policy guidelines" for the next five to 10 years before the dissolution of the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in preparation for elections in two years' time, Xanana Gusmao, CNRT leader, said.

Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, who is accompanying Mr Gusmao on a six-nation tour of Asia, said the CNRT realised that such a consensus was needed "to provide continuity and stability".

Mr Ramos-Horta said: "One of our main concerns is security, where can it best be guaranteed, by linking ourselves with Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific or with Asean." Although there is no precedent for such a move, Mr Ramos-Horta said they may seek to join both organisations.

Mr Gusmao reiterated that he had no intention of running for president of East Timor, saying it was a promise he made to a group of young boys who were the rump of his guerrilla army in the mid 1980s.

"I was fighting for values and ideals, not to become president," said Mr Gusmao.

Mr Ramos-Horta said he and Mr Gusmao would be willing to appear in an Indonesian court as "witnesses for the prosecution" in any trial of military officers for their alleged responsibility for the destruction and killing in East Timor following the territory's vote for independence.

------ Associated Press February 3, 2000

E Timor Leader Explains Why He Won't Be President

BANGKOK (AP)--Though he's touring Asian capitals like a head of state, independence leader Jose Alexandre Gusmao has reaffirmed his intention not to become president when East Timor attains statehood.

Gusmao, better known by the nickname Xanana, met Thursday with Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. He was accompanied by Jose Ramos-Horta, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his tireless campaigning for East Timorese independence.

The popular Gusmao has been touted as the first likely president of East Timor when it emerges from United Nations stewardship, a transition expected within two years.

But though he is perhaps the sole figure who could overcome the schism in East Timorese politics after a quarter-century of brutal rule by Indonesia, Gusmao has repeatedly said he won't lead the country.

Gusmao explained why Wednesday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

The decision dates back to a vow he made when still engaged in desperate jungle fighting against the Indonesian army, which invaded East Timor in 1975 as the territory was gaining independence from colonial ruler Portugal.

In 1984-85, young men under his command "came to me and they kept asking, `When will the war come to an end, because we are becoming each day weaker and weaker, and we are losing men, we are losing material, we are losing energy," Gusmao said in Portuguese.

"`Are we fighting to make you president?"' Gusmao wryly recalls them asking. "`Because if that's the reason we're fighting, we think it's not worth it. It would be a disaster."'

Gusmao said he responded with an oath to his countrymen and comrades, living and dead, that he would not be a president or cabinet minister and telling his men that they were fighting for ideals, for the rights of the people of East Timor.

Confirming to the Bangkok journalists he will seek no official government post, Gusmao said he was certain he would be able to pass on a message at any time to whoever becomes the country's leader.

Gusmao said the political-military coalition formed to fight for independence, the National Council for Timorese Resistance, would hold a final congress in August to decide on national policies for the next five to 10 years.


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