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Old 05-19-2002, 11:43 PM   #1
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Viva Timor leste

East Timor became an independent nation early this morning but a row over the unauthorised arrival of Indonesian warships highlighted the potential fragility of its hard-won freedom.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, described Australia's new neighbour as a partner in security, and urged it to reach out to Indonesia, despite the arrival of the six warships casting a shadow over the celebrations.

As hundreds of thousands of East Timorese celebrated at Masses and ceremonies, the independence hero and new President, Xanana Gusmao, appealed to his Indonesian counterpart, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to help build a strong relationship and forget the past.

"Today, we all agree that the strains in our dealing was a result of an historical mistake, which now belongs to history and to the past," he said in an apparent reference to Indonesia's bloody 1975 invasion.

"And this past, because it already has a rightful place in history, should not continue to strain our spirits or to hamper our attitudes and conduct," Mr Gusmao said in the speech just minutes after the declaration of independence at midnight (1am, Sydney time).

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, paid tribute to the estimated 250,000 people who were killed or died from famine and disease during nearly 400 years of foreign occupation.

"At this moment, we honour every citizen of East Timor who persisted in the struggle for independence. We also remember the many who are no longer with us but who dreamed of this moment. It is their day, too."

Mr Annan saluted the courage of the Timorese. "That a small nation is able to inspire the world and be the focus of our attention is the highest tribute that I can pay."

He ended his speech to tens of thousands of people on a dusty plain outside the capital, Dili, with the cry: "Viva Timor leste" (long live East Timor).

The ceremony included the lowering of the flag of the UN, which has administered the territory since Indonesia withdrew in 1999 after its armed forces had sponsored a campaign of murder, looting, arson and forced expulsions.

The red, yellow, black and white flag of independent East Timor now flies across the country that was ruled by Portugal for nearly 400 years, then by Indonesia for another 25.

Among the crowd at the main celebrations outside Dili were traditional warriors with swords and headdresses, and women wearing colourful woven sarongs.

The mood was of quiet pride, joy and celebration. "I'm happy,"said Bernado Ximines, 23, an unemployed civil servant. "Today we are free. I'm happy. It is independence day and all the countries of the world are coming to East Timor to celebrate."

Mr Ximines was pleased that Ms Megawati had said she would come. "The Indonesian people are good. It's just the army that is bad."

The ceremony, attended by representatives of 80 countries including the former United States president Bill Clinton, had been soured by the unexpected arrival of the warships on Friday.

Military spokesmen in Jakarta said they were needed to protect Ms Megawati, but the UN and East Timorese leaders asked that the ships leave the country's territorial waters after expressing "displeasure" to Jakarta over their sudden arrival.

A report of the new Australian Strategic Policy Institute, to be published today, says Australia should make it clear that it would defend East Timor from any future attack by Indonesia.

At a news conference at Dili Airport, the Prime Minister, John Howard, wearing a traditional Timorese tais, said that the two countries were now "partners in this part of the world".

"The security of East Timor is important to Australia. We wouldn't be where we are now if we hadn't taken that view some years ago."

Mr Howard refused to be drawn on the row over the arrival of the warships, saying: "I have encouraged the East Timorese leadership to reach out to Indonesia and I've encouraged Indonesia to reach out to East Timor."

He spoke of Australia's strong affinity with the East Timorese and referred to Australia's gratitude for their help during World War II and to Australia's support for the territory's independence.

Mr Howard refused to say when Australian troops serving as UN peacekeepers would be withdrawn.


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Old 05-20-2002, 12:44 AM   #2
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excellent news.

after years of waiting, nothing came.

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Old 05-20-2002, 01:02 AM   #3
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Old 05-20-2002, 08:31 AM   #4
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Bagus sekali!
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Old 05-20-2002, 09:06 AM   #5
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If only you could share with us a picture of Howard wearing the Tais, my joy would be increased.

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