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Mandela confirms meeting with Xanana

Republika - 23 July, 1997 (from Tapol)

Johannesburg – South Africa's President Nelsom Mandela issued a statement through the President's Office confirming reports of his meeting with Fretilin (sic) leader, Xanana Gusmao, during his recent state visit to Indonesia.

'The meeting took place at the request of President Mandela, to promote human rights and a peaceful resolution of the conflict,' said the statement issued by the President's office, as quoted yesterday by Reuters.

President Mandela said he would not comment any further on the meeting because of the sensitive negotiations about East Timor that are now taking place on the initiative of the UN.

This week's edition of Gatra reported the meeting, saying that the Fretilin (sic) leader who is serving a 20-year sentence was taken by security officers from Cipinang Prison on Tuesday, 15 July at 8pm to the Presidential Palace and met President Mandela for nearly two hours.

The report has also been confirmed by State Secretary Moerdiono who said that the meeting had taken place with the knowledge and agreement of President Suharto. This was because the President appreciated President Mandela's wish to help seek a solution to the question of East Timor.

But according to the South African President's Office, the meeting took place at the state guest house which is located in the Presidential Palace complex, which is where President Mandela and his entourage stayed while in Jakarta.

Indonesia's roving ambassador Lopez da Cruz also confirmed that the meeting had taken place. 'The three of us met at the State Guesthouse on 15 July and had dinner for about one hour and fifty minutes,' he told Reuters.

Da Cruz said that there were only three people at the meeting. Da Cruz had given his opinion, as had Xanana. President Mandela spoke about his own experiences. 'There was a very good atmosphere,' said da Cruz. 'It was informal and cordial.'

He said this was the first time he had met Xanana for 25 years. The two men were classmates at a seminary and also served in the Portuguese army together.

'Xanana did not put forward any requests at all. President Mandela did most of the talking. He spoke about ways of resolving the question of East Timor in non-emotional ways,' said da Cruz.