Subject: AFP: JRH says will return to ETimor
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 09:01:18 +0000
From: The AustralAsian <>

Ramos Horta says will return to East Timor, even if can't campaign

JAKARTA, June 26 (AFP) - Exiled East Timorese activist and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta returned to Indonesia after 23 years Saturday, saying he would travel to his homeland even if could not campaign there for independence.

Ramos Horta, who was mobbed by journalists at the hotel where is to attend a four-day meeting of the warring factions in East Timor, also said he had an emotionial meeting with jailed East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao.

"I was speechless, not only meeting him as a leader, but as a human being, one of the greatest human beings I have known in my life" Ramos Horta said.

"I gave him a big warm embrace."

The man who has devoted his two decades in exile to campaigning for independence for his people, also said he would accept the condition laid down by Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas for his return to East Timor -- that he not campaign.

"I accept that political condition ... Why? Because the people of East Timor don't need any campaign.

"They have been there for 23 years, they know (the conditions) better than I do," he said.

Asked if he thought East Timorese could vote without fear of retribution in a UN-conducted ballot in August in which they will chose between independence and autonomy under Indonesia, Ramos Horta replied: "Not at the moment."

"But I believe the conditions can be created in a month or two.

"I believe President B.J. Habibie and (armed forces chief) General Wiranto ... will put their best efforts together with us to create a condition of peace. Because this not only in the interests of East Timorese, it is the good name of democracy in Indonesia."

He also said he thought Jakarta would accept the outcome of the vote, saying Habibie had pledged to do so, and "this new and democratic Indonesia can do nothing else."

Ramos Horta, vice president of the National Council of Timorese resitance (CNRT), an umbrella organisation for East Timorese pro-independence movements, was granted a visa to attend the reconciliation conference here.

He will join 39 other East Timorese leaders and representatives, many like him exiles, in the second phase of church-sponsored reconciliation talks between the rival East Timorese factions starting Sunday.

The talks, officially known as the Dare II dialogue and reconciliation conference, kicked off Friday between some 20 representatives of the pro- and anti-independence groups in East Timor, including Gusmao.

In Australia earlier this month Ramos Horta had threatened to find a rogue pilot who would fly him into East Timor, visa or not, drawing an angry response from Alatas.

In Dili, Jamsheed Marker, the special envoy on East Timor for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, told journalists he would make sure all sides had equal rights to campaign.

"There cannot be a free and fair ballot, unless all the parties have the rights to campaign equally," Marker said in a press conference shortly before ending a three-day visit there.

"This will be our duty to make sure on that," he said.

A spokesman for the organisers of the Jakarta talks, Father Domingos Sequeira, said 60 participants from East Timor and abroad will attend the second dialogue organised by the church. The first was in Dare, East Timor last September.

Organizing the talks are Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo who shared the 1996 Nobel prize with Ramos Horta, and Baucau Bishop Basilio do Nascimento.

Violence between the various factions has spiralled since Jakarta said in January it would let go of the territory it invaded in 1975 if its people rejected an offer of autonomy under Indonesia.

The AustralAsian For News, Views and Comments on the Asia-Pacific Visit editor: Sonny Inbaraj

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