Subject: E. Timor struggle 'dark page in history' says Gusmao

East Timor struggle 'dark page in history' says Gusmao

DILI, East Timor, Oct 23 (AFP) - East Timor's independence struggle would be remembered as "a dark page in history," resistance leader Xanana Gusmao said Saturday, while offering an amnesty to pro-Jakarta militia as he set about rebuilding his ravaged homeland.

Gusmao, who slipped back into East Timor on Thursday night for the first time in seven years, said he had left the territory "as a guerrilla fighter and returned as a guerrilla fighter."

East Timor was devastated when pro-Jakarta militiamen went on a murderous rampage following the August 30 vote for independence, but Gusmao advised against reflecting on the past.

"Once and for all we want to forget the past. All we've been through and leave it behind as a dark page in history," he told a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in Dili.

"If you keep remembering the past you are not able to go ahead to the future."

But while offering militia members an amnesty, Gusmao said it was subject to them confessing their crimes

"The only condition for them, the militia, to come back is to accept with honesty that they must confess their crimes to the people.

"An amnesty is a fair political act," he said

Of his own future, Gusmao deflected questions about whether he would be the first president of an independent East Timor as widely speculated.

"We'll have to wait and see," he said.

On the future of the National Council for Timorese resistance (CNRT), Gusmao said: "The CNRT will be on hand whenever needed and play a role whenever it becomes necessary."

Gusmao also revealed he had been in contact with senior members of an Indonesian task force and their talks had been "cooperative."

"From both sides, the signs were that we can work together and build confidence."

The resistance leader, who fought Indonesian troops for 25 years, was initially sentenced to life imprisonment after his arrest in 1992.

Earlier this year he was moved to house arrest as part of a UN-sponsored deal to settle the conflict in East Timor. He was released last month after the independence vote.

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