Subject: E. Timor Minister Criticizes Gusmao's Meeting with Wiranto

Associated Press May 30, 2004

E Timor Minister Criticizes Pres Meeting With Indonesian General

East Timor's Foreign Minister on Sunday criticized his head of state's meeting with an Indonesian presidential candidate indicted for war crimes for his role in the killing of some 1,500 people during the half-island's 1999 fight for independence.

Gen. Wiranto held a "nostalgic" reconciliation meeting in Bali with East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, himself a former guerrilla leader, on Saturday. The men shook hands, hugged and laughed when they greeted each other.

Gusmao, who fought in the jungles for years during the independence war, had said he would not back the charges against Wiranto, arguing that improving relations with Indonesia is more important than seeking justice for the victims of the massacres.

"I don't agree with the timing of our head of state's visit with (such a controversial) presidential candidate," East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta told reporters before leaving for a visit to Portugal. "The government of East Timor has to be prudent so as not to discredit ourselves and the judicial process."

Horta said East Timor would have to "be pragmatic in normalizing relations" with Wiranto if he was elected Indonesian president in July 5 polls.

A U.N.-backed special tribunal issued an arrest warrant for Wiranto in early May for his alleged role in the 1999 violence, when East Timor held a referendum on independence. Wiranto headed Indonesia's army at the time of the vote.

Indonesian troops and their militia proxies later went on a murderous rampage, killing some 1,500 people, and also laid waste to much of East Timor's infrastructure.

Last year, U.N. prosecutors working in the tiny nation indicted Wiranto for his alleged command responsibility for "murder, deportation and persecution" committed during 1999. He has denied any wrongdoing.

East Timor became the world's newest nation in 2001 after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations. The world body still keeps a small peacekeeping force, provides technical assistance, and funds efforts to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice.

An estimated 200,000 East Timorese died during Indonesia's two-decade occupation as a result of military operations, starvation and disease.


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