Subject: AFP: Megawati "contemplating" attending E. Timor independence party

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Megawati "contemplating" attending East Timor independence party

JAKARTA, March 6 (AFP) - Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is considering attending East Timor's independence day celebrations on May 20 but has made no decision, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said Wednesday.

Megawati has not yet made up her mind but is "contemplating attending," Wirayuda told reporters after meeting the president at the state palace.

"We are still conducting further study on this matter," the minister said, adding that accommodation was difficult to find in East Timor.

An Indonesian parliamentary commission on Tuesday urged Megawati to boycott the independence party, saying that her presence "will only worsen the yet unhealed wounds of East Timorese refugees."

An estimated 60,000-80,000 refugees remain in squalid camps in Indonesian West Timor, two and a half years after fleeing violence related to East Timor's independence vote in August 1999.

East Timor's leaders on February 25 urged Megawati to attend the celebrations as a mark of reconciliation after the territory's tragic quarter-century relationship with Indonesia.

The territory's independence hero and likely first president Xanana Gusmao said in Bangkok Tuesday he "believed" Megawati will attend the celebration.

Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, relinquished it to the United Nations in October 1999 after the ballot, the accompanying militia violence and the arrival of an international peacekeeping force.

Before becoming president in July last year, Megawati was in the frontline of opposition to East Timor's independence.


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