Subject: ETimor Leader Held Until Referendum - 'For His Own Safety'
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 09:53:58 -0400

08-13-99 1203EDT

ETimor Leader Held Until Referendum

Associated Press


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - For his own safety, a top pro-independence leader will remain under house arrest until after a referendum on East Timor's future, a senior Indonesian official said Friday.

Nugroho Wisnumurti, Indonesia's negotiator for East Timor, said Indonesia wants to be sensitive to the international community's concerns about Jose Alexandre ``Xanana'' Gusmao.

``But this consideration has to be balanced with the need for the government of Indonesia to make sure that his security ... should be guaranteed,'' Wisnumurti said.

Gusmao heads the National Council for Timorese Resistance, which has spearheaded opposition to Indonesian rule since Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. He was jailed in 1992 but transferred to house arrest in January as part of preparations for the Aug. 30 U.N.-sponsored referendum, when the East Timorese will vote on whether or not to remain a part of Indonesia.

Gusmao has attained near-legendary status among independence supporters. Many want him to be East Timor's first head of state if voters opt for independence.

Wisnumurti was speaking Friday after a meeting of officials from the United Nations, Indonesia and Portugal, East Timor's former colonial master. The groups are trying to hammer out security arrangements in East Timor, which has been wracked by continuing violence in the months leading up to the referendum.

Independence activists accuse the Indonesian military of supporting anti-independence militias in a campaign to derail the vote. In recent days, some Indonesian officials have warned that East Timor could slide into civil war if its people vote for independence.

But Jamsheed Marker, the U.N. envoy in charge, pronounced himself satisfied with the security preparations.

``All parties reaffirmed their commitment to carry out their respective obligations,'' Marker said. ``This was not just a verbal reiteration of this commitment but actual measures that will be taken.''

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