Subject: AP: East Timor Celebrates 1975 Independence

East Timor Celebrates Independence The Associated Press, Tue 28 Nov 2000

DILI, East Timor (AP) — Thousands of people rallied in Dili on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of East Timor's initial declaration of independence, giving a hero's welcome to the territory's first president, Fransisco Xavier do Amaral.

Police patrols were stepped up around the half-island nation in expectation of clashes between rival political groups. But the rally, which drew some 5,000 people, passed off peacefully.

After Portugal relinquished its claim to the colony in 1975, a left-leaning political party, Fretilin, declared do Amaral president of East Timor.

His presidency lasted only nine days. Neighboring Indonesia's dictator Suharto, claiming that East Timor was being taken over by communists, mounted an amphibious invasion on Dec. 7.

Although East Timor's nascent army — consisting mostly of former colonial soldiers — put up fierce resistance, it was eventually overcome by the sheer size of the invading force.

Many of the Timorese troops escaped to the hills to continue a guerrilla war.

``We were left by the Portuguese government and we were challenged by the Indonesian army,'' do Amaral told the crowd on Tuesday. ``It was like a dream. I was convinced that we could open our mouths and say that we are free now, but we paid with our blood.''

Indonesia ruled East Timor until its people voted overwhelmingly for freedom in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in August 1999.

The United Nations, which now administers the embryonic nation, expects elections will be held next year.

U.N. administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello said a timetable detailing the handover of power from the world body to the East Timorese people was being put before the Security Council.

He said the United Nations is looking toward ``the tail-end of 2001'' for East Timor to declare its independence.

The key event before independence will be the democratic election of an East Timorese constituent assembly which will undertake the final drafting and adoption of a constitution, Sergio Vieira de Mello said.

Jose Alexandre ``Xanana'' Gusmao, who assumed command of the guerrillas during the 1980s, is widely expected to become the country's first democratically elected president.

Mari Alkateri (sic _ should be Alkatiri), a member of the territory's provisional Cabinet, said East Timor was ready for elections but still needed the support of the international community.

``In one year's time, I have no doubt that East Timorese will be ready to administer their country,'' Alkateri said.


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