Subject: AP:Support Urged for Indonesian Leader by Ramos-Horta

Support Urged for Indonesian Leader The Associated Press, Wed 1 Nov 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta expressed hope Wednesday that Indonesia's government does not implode and its President Abdurrahman Wahid reaches autonomy agreements with separatists in two regions seeking independence.

But Wahid, a democratic reformer elected last fall, often is undermined by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri and powerful enemies in the army opposed to any autonomy deal, Ramos-Horta said.

He said some elements in the army also were bent on stopping Wahid's attempts to consolidate democracy in the world's fourth most populous nation. He said Wahid, a half-blind Muslim cleric, had received a lot of unfair criticism.

Ramos-Horta urged the separatists in Acheh and Irian Jaya province to ``walk halfway, seize the olive branch that is being offered (by Wahid) and strike the best possible deal for autonomy now.''

Ramos-Horta was sworn in last month as foreign minister in an advisory cabinet set up by East Timor's U.N. administration. Indonesia rule in the former Portuguese colony ended last year in a wave of militia violence and devastation last year. Elections for its first independent government are expected by the end of 2001.

Giving the World Press Freedom Committee's 14th annual Harold Andersen Lecture, Ramos-Horta said he hoped Wahid ``could avoid what happened in East Timor and keep the country together.''

He said Indonesia could go two ways — slide further into anarchy and become ungovernable or endure a ``passing situation of instability that lasts months but is manageable.''

Ramos-Horta said the United States, Australia and all of Indonesia's Asian neighbors do not want to see the country disintegrate.

He praised the U.S. Ambassador in Jakarta, Robert Gelbard, for speaking frankly to Indonesia officials. Some of them have called Gelbard a meddler and want him withdrawn.

Ramos-Horta, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996 for pushing East Timor's cause, said he planned to remain in the advisory cabinet for a few months. His main objective, he said, is to establish a free press and broadcasting in East Timor.

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