Subject: AP: Megawati Would Not Block East Timor's Independence: Horta
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 09:19:36 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Megawati Would Not Block East Timor 's Independence: Horta


CANBERRA(AP)--Leading candidate Megawati Sukarnoputri would honor Indonesia's promises on the future of East Timor if she becomes the country's next president, independence activist Jose Ramos Horta said Tuesday.

Megawati has criticized the policy of President B.J. Habibie, who has promised to let the disputed territory go if East Timorese choose independence at a U.N.-sponsored ballot planned for next month.

"I am confident that she will honor Indonesia's word," Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Laureate, told Australia's National Press Club.

"We are confident that, in spite of some of her public statements, in the end...if she takes over...the issue (of East Timor ) will have been resolved," Horta said. "It will be a fait accompli."

An electoral college, consisting of the 500 members of the newly constituted Indonesian parliament and 200 regional and interest group representatives, is scheduled to convene in November and choose a new president.

Although the results of the June 7 parliamentary elections have not yet been fully declared, the presidential contest is now being seen as a two-horse race, with only Habibie and Megawati still in the running.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the territory a year later. Earlier this year, Habibie gave his approval to the U.N. plan for the referendum on independence or autonomy within the world's largest Muslim nation.

Horta predicted that history would see Habibie as a man of vision and courage for setting in motion the independence process.

He said despite recent violence in East Timor , including attacks on U.N. personnel who are preparing for the ballot, he is optimistic the vote will proceed.

"In spite of challenges on the ground, I remain optimistic," Horta said.

East Timor 's independence movement would respect the outcome of the ballot, no matter what it is, he said.

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