Subject: AFP: East Timor president wins UNESCO peace prize

Also: UNESCO announcement

East Timor president wins UNESCO peace prize

Agence France Presse

PARIS, Oct 9 (AFP) - East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao Wednesday was awarded UNESCO's Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize in recognition of the former guerrilla leader's dedication to independence and reconciliation in the world's newest nation. An international jury presided by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said in a statement Gusmao won the 122,000-euro (121,000-dollar) prize for "his fight for human dignity and for his conduct which has elevated the human spirit not only for his region but in the world".

Gusmao, whose full name is Jose Alexandre Gusmao, was a leader of the tiny island's campaign for independence from Indonesia in the 1980s. He was arrested in 1992 and imprisoned until 1999.

East Timor was a Portugese colony for four centuries before the European state withdrew abruptly in 1975, leaving the territory to be overrun and annexed by Indonesia.

Indonesia's occupation ended in chaos as its army and militiamen laid waste to East Timor to punish it for voting by a four-to-one majority for independence in a UN referendum on August 30,1999. The jury said Gusmao has worked to reconcile his nation and encourage political pluralism.

The prize, created in 1989 and named after the Ivory Coast's first president, was last awarded to former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Irish president Mary Robinson. UNESCO did not award a prize in 2001.

Press Release No.2002-75


Paris, October 9 - Xanana Gusmão, President of East Timor, was today chosen as the laureate of the 2002 Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize by an international jury presided by former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger.

Mr Kissinger declared the prize was attributed to the President of the newly independent nation "for his fight for human dignity and for his conduct which has elevated the human spirit not only in his region but in the world."

Mário Soares, the former president of Portugal who is a member of the jury, welcomed this "good choice, which rewards a person that is exceptional both for his humanism and for his pacifism."

A hero of East Timor's freedom movement of which he became the leader in the 1980s, Mr Gusmão - whose full name is José Alexandre Gusmão - was arrested by the Indonesian army in 1992 and held in jail until 1999. He became the first president of East Timor and has been a staunch defender of reconciliation and political pluralism.

The date of the ceremony at which the 122,000 Euros Prize, peace diploma and medal will be awarded is to be determined after consultation with the laureate.

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize - created in 1989 and awarded by UNESCO annually - honours people, organizations and institutions which have contributed significantly to the promotion, research, safeguarding or maintaining of peace, mindful of the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of UNESCO. The Prize is named after the first president of Côte d'Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Because of the events of September 11, the Jury decided not to award the Prize for the year 2001.

The international jury of the Prize - composed of jurists, elder statesmen and Nobel Peace Prize laureates - in 2000 honoured the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. In 1999, the Prize was awarded to the Community of Sant'Egidio. In 1998, it was shared between Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and US Senator George Mitchell, former Special Adviser to US President Clinton for Irish Affairs. Other past winners include: President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines and Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1997; Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu and Guatemalan guerrilla leader Rolando Moran (1996), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and its High Commissioner Sadako Ogata (1995); King Juan Carlos of Spain and former US President Jimmy Carter (1994); Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat (1993); the International Law Academy in The Hague (1992); Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. De Klerk (1991).

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