Subject: Ramos-Horta Says E Timor Won't Become Authoritarian

Associated Press July 25, 2001

Ramos-Horta Says E Timor Won't Become Authoritarian

HANOI (AP)--East Timorese people's hunger for democracy will prevent the country from ever turning authoritarian, its foreign minister said Wednesday after seeking aid for postwar rebuilding.

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta was asked about a possible repetition of the experience of Cambodia. In the early 1990s, the U.N. provided large numbers of personnel and funds to aid the postwar transition there - only to see the country slide toward factional fighting and strongman rule.

"Judging from my knowledge of my people, what they went through, how they feel today, autocratic rule and dictatorship will never prevail in East Timor," Ramos-Horta told The Associated Press.

"I personally did not invest 25 years of my life struggling for the freedom of East Timor to see one day the country overrun by thugs," he said. "It's not going to happen. Our people are exceptionally committed to democracy because they understand it through the lack of it for 25 years."

East Timor broke away from Indonesia in 1999 after years of brutal rule. Under temporary U.N. administration, the territory will hold its first national election on Aug. 30. Independence leader Jose "Xanana" Gusmao is widely expected to become president.

The country's U.N. administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said he was optimistic it wouldn't go the path of Cambodia.

He said that in East Timor, the partnership of the U.N. and the East Timorese leadership was in full control whereas in Cambodia, four political groups ruled over separate pieces of territory with iron fists.

De Mello said the campaign has been going well, and he expects the Aug. 30 election to be peaceful.

He, Ramos-Horta, and Gusmao met in Hanoi Wednesday with a European Union delegation led by Louis Michel, president of the E.U. Council of Ministers. They discussed E.U. financial and technical support for reconstruction at the meeting, arranged during talks of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Asean has said it welcomes East Timor as a future member.

De Mello said afterward he wasn't concerned about funds for East Timor's reconstruction because the international community has been very generous in giving aid.

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