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More than 100 Members of Congress Urge Clinton and Indonesian President Habibie to Ease Concerns in East Timor

From the office of Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio)


WASHINGTON-A bipartisan group of more than 100 Members of Congress sent two separate letters to President Clinton and Indonesian President Habibie calling for a just solution to the tragedy in East Timor, where as many as 200,000 people have perished from the combined effects of a war in that island territory'.

The letters were originated by Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio) in an effort to help bring about a lasting settlement to the longstanding conflict in East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975.

"At this crucial juncture in Indonesian history, It is vital that the United States take a strong position in support of East Timor and call on the Indonesian Government to honor past resolutions enacted by the United Nations," the lawmakers said in the letter to Clinton.

Both letters to Clinton and Habibie urged ending human rights abuses through "an immediate and substantial reduction in the Indonesian military' presence in East Timor as well as the granting of freedom of speech and assembly."

The lawmakers called for the release of political prisoners, including Xanana Gusmao, the Timorese resistance leader who has been compared with Nelson Mandela.

The letters also underscored the need for a speedy resolution of the East Timor problem through the good offices of the United Nations, "based on the freely expressed wishes of the people of East Timor."

The letter to Clinton pointed out, "Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996...has stated that only through democratic means can a just and lasting political settlement be achieved in East Timor."

According to Hall, there has been more openness in Fast Timor's capital city in recent months since the fall of President Suharto.

"It is vital to continue the momentum that has been generated thus far, and there would be no better way to do that than to improve the human rights situation, withdraw troops, and release all political prisoners, especially Xanana Gusmao, who is crucial to any long-term solution to the problem," stressed Hall.

The lawmakers noted in their letter to Clinton, "It is an unfortunate fact that the invasion was carried out with American weaponry and diplomatic support."

"The United States should work with its allies to make clear to the new government that a speedy resolution to the East Timor problem through the good offices of the United Nations would be to the benefit of all," the lawmakers told Clinton.

In addition to Hall, key supporters of the letters were Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Nita Lowey (0- N.Y.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), John Edward Porter (R-Ill.), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa,), and Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

Full text of the letters and the full list of the signers