Subject: Indon FM urges rival E Timorese to work towards reconciliation

Indonesian FM urges rival East Timorese to work towards reconciliation

JAKARTA, Dec 19 (AFP) - Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab on Tuesday stressed that warring camps in former enclave East Timor must be reconciled so that more than 100,000 refugees languishing in squalid camps can return home.

"It is important for a reconciliation to be immediately reached, not only for the prosperity and stability of the society in East Timor but also to alleviate the sufferings of refugees whose numbers remain quite large," Shihab said according to the state Antara news agency.

The foreign minister was speaking after a meeting between representatives of rival East Timorese factions - pro- and anti-independence - held on the Indonesian resort island of Bali Tuesday.

East Timor received independence from Indonesia after a ballot last year, sparking riots by pro-Indonesia militia and continuing intimidation of pro-independence East Timorese.

The meeting included the president of the East Timorese administration Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta.

Shahib said Indonesia would continue to back efforts enabling secure and prosperous conditions to develop in its former province and aimed to achieve closer bilateral ties.

He cited President Abdurrahman Wahid's insistence on promoting the establishment of a West Pacific forum that would include Indonesia and East Timor.

"The idea of President Wahid is to create some sort of a forum, workshop or grouping in the West Pacific region aimed at lifting the people of East Timor to the level of the rest of the world community," Shihab said.

He said that in Tuesday's talks he had called on both camps to move beyond their differences and work together for cooperation and peace in East Timor.

"There is no reason for the people of East Timor and all related sides not to work for a reconciliation because the longer we are trapped in drawn-out conflicts, the longer harmony will continue to elude us and the longer our suffering will last," Shihab said.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it in the following year. It relinquished sovereignty over East Timor in October following the the pro-independence results of a UN-held ballot in East Timor on August 4 last year.

Pro-Indonesia militias embarked on a deadly campaign of violence across East Timor following the results of the ballot, forcing more than 250,000 people to flee into Indonesian-controlled West Timor and more than 100,000 others to hide in the forests of East Timor.

Around 130,000 East Timorese are still holed up in refugee camps in Indonesia, and many fear retaliation if they return to their hometowns.

The series of meetings between the two camps and the Indonesian government began on Sunday and are scheduled to wind up later Tuesday.

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