Subject: Belo appeals for militia to return to E Timor and beg forgiveness

Belo appeals for militia to return to East Timor and beg forgiveness

DILI, East Timor, Oct 31 (AFP) - Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo Sunday appealed to pro-Jakarta militiamen to return home to East Timor and beg forgiveness, during an emotional mass in which he called for friendship with Indonesia.

"Timor is your country, not Indonesia. Please come back here, East Timor is your home and needs you," Belo told a crowd of several thousand gathered in a square outside his half-destroyed compound in Dili.

"We must forgive but first you must explain to the Timorese people why you burned homes and killed so many people," he said in the local Tetum language.

The Indonesian army-backed militias unleashed a horrifying campaign of violence after the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in an August 30 ballot, razing whole towns to the ground.

Many militia fled to Indonesian West Timor when Interfet peacekeepers arrived in the territory on September 20 where reports say they are planning revenge and terrorising East Timorese who fled the violence.

Speaking in Portuguese, English and Tetum, Belo then switched to Indonesian to address a message of reconciliation to Jakarta.

"We respect you and love you. We are proud because you have entered a new democratic era," said the bishop, while also expressing sadness over the past.

Belo was speaking at the end of a Catholic religious parade through the streets of Dili which was held after the last Indonesian soldiers in the territory left by ship from Dili's port in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The evacuation formally ended 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation which was estimated to have cost the lives of up to 200,000 East Timorese.

"They tried to build us up during 24 years but the result was zero, nonsense," said Belo, to cheers and applause from the crowd.

The Bishop of Dili called on the people of East Timor to work hard to put their new nation on a sound footing.

"You must work hard so the economy can become strong. Our independence will be empty if you sit and wait for other countries to help. We must not become beggars," he said.

Following the UN-sponsored vote and Jakarta's endorsement of the poll, East Timor has formally passed to the administration of the UN Transitional Authority for East Timor (UNTAET) which is expected to shepherd the country towards full statehood over two or three years.

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