Subject: East Timor's leaders invited to meet Indonesia's Megawati

East Timor's leaders invited to meet Indonesia's Megawati

DILI, East Timor, Sept 6 (AFP) - East Timor's leaders will meet Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Jakarta next week following an invitation from her foreign minister, local United Nations chief Sergio Vieira de Mello said Thursday.

It will be the Timorese leaders' first meeting with Megawati, who refused to meet independence leader Xanana Gusmao when she was vice president from October 1999 until July this year.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, the year after Portugal pulled out, and ruled the half-island territory with brutal military force for 24 years, during which time some 200,000 East Timorese are believed to have died.

Megawati, the fervently nationalist daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno, opposed the UN-organised ballot in 1999 which allowed East Timor to break away.

But she acknowledged for the first time East Timor's sovereignty in a speech to the national parliament last month.

"We openly respect the choice of our brothers and sisters there to live as an independent nation," she said in her national day address.

Megawati said Indonesia's involvement in East Timor was "not intentional, because the founding father (Sukarno) adhered to the stance that Indonesian territory was defined by what was the former Dutch East Indies. No more and no less".

De Mello, who heads the UN's 23-month-old transitional administration in East Timor, announced that Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda had phoned him with the invitation on Wednesday.

Wirayuda also congratulated the East Timorese on the way they conducted the August 30 poll, their first free election after more than four centuries of oppressive rule by Portugal and Jakarta's 24-year regime.

Xanana Gusmao, East Timor's likely future president, foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta and de Mello will travel to Jakarta on September 13 and are due to meet Megawati on September 14.

De Mello said Mari Alkatire, secretary-general of election-winning party Fretilin, may also accompany the delegation.

The leaders will return to Dili on September 15 in time for the inauguration of the newly-formed constituent assembly.

The assembly's 88 members were chosen in last week's poll, in which 91.3 precent of registered voters cast their ballots.

Fretilin, the party that led the territory's 24-year resistance struggle against Indonesia, won the election with 57 percent of the vote but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to approve assembly decisions.

The 88-seat body will write the nascent nation's first constitution and become the national parliament by early December.

Full independence is expected to be granted by the UN in March or April next year, after elections for the president of what will be the world's youngest nation.


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