Subject: Thousands Cheer East Timor Leader

Associated Press October 22, 00:18 EDT

Thousands Cheer East Timor Leader

By LAURA KING Associated Press Writer

DILI, East Timor (AP) — Thousands of cheering and crying people filled the capital of East Timor on Friday to welcome the return of their exiled guerrilla leader, Jose Alexandre ``Xanana'' Gusmao.

``We have shown the whole world, we have shown Indonesia, we have shown ourselves that we have the courage to fight for independence for 25 years,'' Gusmao said in speech after Australian forces secretly flew him here from Darwin, Australia, Thursday night.

His voice breaking with emotion, Gusmao said: ``It has been a very difficult struggle. Our sorrow has lasted too long.''

Flashing victory signs with their fingers and shouting ``Long live East Timor!'' the audience rocked back and forth, with some pounding on drums at the back of the crowd to celebrate.

Gusmao was joined on the podium where he spoke in front of the governor's white residence by Taur Matan Ruak, who commanded the pro-independence Falitil rebel group in Gusmao's absence.

Loudspeaker trucks earlier had driven through the city streets announcing the homecoming of the 53-year-old guerrilla chief, who is likely to become the new country's first president after a period of transition under United Nations control.

Roque Rodrigues, the chief of staff of Gusmao's East Timor resistance movement, said in Darwin that the group had kept Gusmao's movement secret for security reasons.

His arrival comes two days after the Indonesian parliament endorsed the results of East Timor's independence referendum, effectively relinquishing control of the province.

Some had feared the Indonesian vote would trigger a fresh rampage by the anti-independence militias, who went on a spree of burning, looting and intimidation last month after a referendum in which East Timorese overwhelmingly favored independence.

Following the deadly rampage, the United Nations authorized an international peacekeeping force that arrived in East Timor on Sept. 20 to restore order.

The United Nations, meanwhile, moved closer to taking sweeping authority in East Timor during its transition to independence. The U.N. Security Council in New York late Thursday scrapped from its resolution a call for all parties cooperate with a U.N. commission investigating atrocities in East Timor, diplomats said.

Indonesia has rejected the U.N. inquiry, saying its own National Human Rights Commission should investigate and recommend punishment for those responsible for terrorizing the territory. The resolution was expected to be signed by Monday.

In another development, 2,000 refugees cheered, cried and chanted ``Viva!'' as they arrived in Dili aboard the first ship to carry displaced East Timorese home from Indonesian territory.

The refugees had spent at least a month in refugee camps after they fled or were driven from their homes by an outbreak of violence following East Timor's Aug. 30 independence referendum.

Humanitarian officials said the refugees, who had left the port of Kupang in Indonesian-controlled West Timor about 12 hours earlier, were in generally good condition.

UNHCR spokesman Jacques Franquin, who was aboard the ship, said he hoped the voyage marked the start of a mass return of refugees, about 250,000 of whom are still in West Timor. Ships will probably transport the bulk of them home, he said.

In his speech, Gusmao urged the world to help East Timor rebuild the province, which was heavily damaged in a rampage by Indonesian forces and their militia allies after it voted for independence.

``There is much to do to recover, to save our homeland, to save ourselves,'' he said. ``All of us must try to let go of the bad things they have done to us. Tomorrow is ours.''

Gusmao was captured by Indonesian troops in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After East Timor voted for independence, Gusmao was released and made the rounds of Western capitals appealing for international intervention in the territory.

The people in East Timor see his homecoming as the first real sign of their independence to come.

Before Gusmao spoke in Dili's seafront plaza, thousands of people rushed into the city to greet him, traveling by foot or in scooters, trucks and cars.

Security was heavy, and armored personnel carriers were stationed around the square. Scores of peacekeepers, wearing full combat gear, patrolled the area.

``Xanana is like our father, East Timor's father. He is here to see the suffering of the people and to find a way to help us,'' said Francisco do Rosaario, 32.

``After the great victory won by the people, the most important problem is how to overcome the disaster caused by 25 years of Indonesian rule,'' said 25-year-old Candido Amral.

On Thursday, tensions on the West Timor border heated up further, with international peacekeepers reinforcing their ranks along the frontier following a surge of militia incursions into East Timor.

About 150 more peacekeeping troops moved into position early Thursday near the border to blunt the push by the pro-Indonesian militiamen and to protect refugees returning from West Timor, said Col. Mark Kelly, spokesman for the 16-nation peacekeeping force. West Timor is controlled by Indonesia.

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