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East Timor Laureate won't see U.N.

Associated Press - March 20, 1997

Alexander G. Higgins, Geneva – Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta rejected an opportunity Thursday to appear before the U.N. Human Rights Commission to champion East Timor's cause, accusing Indonesia of meddling.

Ramos-Horta talked to reporters after it became clear that Indonesia, which seized East Timor in 1975, had succeeded in blocking him from speaking at the main podium usually reserved for featured speakers to the 53-nation commission. Indonesia reportedly was concerned that he would use his time to attack the country.

Miroslav Somol of the Czech Republic, who chairs the commission, told reporters "unfortunately, it is out of the question" for Ramos-Horta to speak at the main podium.

"It is a very sensitive issue for some delegations," Somol said. "There is not and will be no consensus."

Ramos-Horta said even if he had received an invitation to speak to the commission, he would have preferred to speak from the back of the assembly hall, which is reserved for non-governmental human rights organizations.

Otherwise, Ramos-Horta said, he might find himself mixed in with some governments "that do not give me any comfort."

He said he was still negotiating to make sure his "right to speak in the commission is not curtailed by dictators."

His main message is that the people of East Timor should be accorded self-determination and should be allowed to decide in a referendum whether they want to be independent.

Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel prize with Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, the religious leader of the former Portuguese colony.