Subject: Gusmao asks for US aid; lawmakers push sanctions on Indonesia

Subject: Gusmao asks for US aid; lawmakers push sanctions on Indon

Timor's Gusmao asks for US aid; lawmakers push sanctions on Indonesia

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (AFP) - East Timor independence leader Xanana Gusmao Wednesday urged the United States to give the bloodied territory the moral and financial tools to rebuild and pave its way to a democratic future independent of Indonesia.

Gusmao, the man likely to be the first president of a newly independent East Timor, said that "from the rubble and ashes of destruction my people are determined to build a free and independent" nation.

Flanked by his compatriot, Nobel peace prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, and a group of US lawmakers, Gusmao told reporters that the East Timorese need financial aid to rebuild basic infrastructure, humanitarian aid to staunch starvation and disease, and "moral and psychological aid to overcome the trauma they have lived."

Gusmao, who spoke through an interpreter, pleaded for US "emergency assistance and aid" and thanked his "great friends" in the US Congress for the support they have already shown.

The former seminarian was freed by Indonesia earlier this month after spending six years in prison there, but was forced to flee to Australia after his life was threatened in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, lawmakers here led by Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy urged passage of a bill that would sever suspended military-to-military ties with Jakarta and sharply curtail aid it receives.

While praising widespread denunciation of violence in East Timor, including non-binding measures in the US Congress, Kennedy stressed that "words are not enough."

Washington suspended military cooperation with Jakarta after East Timor's overwhelming August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia prompted anti-independence militias -- backed by some Indonesian military units -- to go on a bloody rampage.

Kennedy sponsored a bill which aims to compel Indonesia to withdraw its troops from East Timor and implement the result of the vote.

The bill would also instruct the White House to oppose any multilateral aid to Indonesia; bar non-humanitarian US aid from Jakarta; and sever military aid, including financing, export licensing or exports of defense articles and services.

If passed, the bill would require the US president to certify five conditions to Congress before resuming military relations with Jakarta.

The conditions are: violence in the territory is over, displaced persons can return home, the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) operations are unfettered, and Jakarta's military has ceased working with the militias and are withdrawing from the territory.

"We need to hold Indonesia's feet to the fire, we need to continue to hold Indonesia responsible," urged Democratic Representative James McGovern, who met with Gusmao earlier this year.

A bipartisan group of 23 lawmakers were cosponsoring Kennedy's bill, a companion measure to which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday.

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a measure expressing support for the Australia-led international force dispatched to East Timor and criticizing Indonesian military elements for abetting anti-independence militias whose rampage sent some 250,000 fleeing from their homes.

The measure also expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that international aid to Indonesia should be curtailed if Jakarta impedes the UN force or fails to take action to implement the independence referendum results.


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