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U.N. envoy meets jailed East Timor rebel leader

Reuters - March 27, 1997

Jakarta – The United Nations special envoy for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, said he met jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao on Thursday at the end of his fact-finding mission to Indonesia.

Marker told a news conference that he met Gusmao in Jakarta but would not give any more details.

Gusmao, the leader of East Timorese guerrillas fighting Indonesian authorities for independence and revered by many in the territory, has been in a Jakarta jail since he was arrested in 1992 and is currently serving a 20-year sentence.

Legal aid officials later said it was Gusmao's first contact with any visitor other than family since 1995.

Marker said he would present a report on his visits to Annan next week after which "we hope to come forward with some sort of proposal which will give impetus to the ongoing dialogue."

"We don't intend to waste any time on this," he added. "It's just a matter of structuring the meetings. "I have found a desire for a solution to this long-standing problem and a genuine willingness to look for it," he said.

Asked if the talks between Indonesia and Portugal would resume by the end of the year, Marker said: "I hope much earlier than that. We shall start the process fairly quickly."

Meanwhile, police said they were questioning 33 East Timorese youths who broke into the Austrian embassy in Jakarta on Tuesday and staged a protest demanding a meeting with Marker.

Three of the youths were taken to meet Marker that afternoon and the group left the mission compound early on Thursday.

Marker acknowledged he met the delegation but added: "I was available to meet them and they could have asked (U.N. authorities) and come over. I didn't think it was necessary to jump over embassy walls to in order to meet me, whatever else they may want."

Marker also said that no one was killed when Indonesian police broke up a protest demonstration in the East Timor capital Dili on Sunday at the hotel where he was staying.

Self-exiled East Timorese leader Jose Ramos-Horta, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Belo, said in Geneva on Tuesday that he had unconfirmed reports that between two and seven protestors were killed in the incident.

"I am happy to say that this is not correct," Marker said. "This has been confirmed to me not only by government authorities but also independent authorities like the ICRC (the International Committee for the Red Cross)."