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South Africa expels Portuguese envoy over Timor note

Reuters - August 4, 1997

Brendan Boyle, Cape Town – South Africa has expelled Portugal's ambassador over the leaking of a misdirected note from President Nelson Mandela to his Indonesian counterpart, but diplomatic ties remain intact, government sources said on Monday.

Two South African government sources confirmed an Indonesian newspaper report that Portuguese Ambassador Vasco Valente had last week been given 48 hours to leave the country.

"This is in terms of international diplomatic protocols, which allow one country to object to a particular individual without affecting diplomatic relations in any way," one of the sources told Reuters.

"There has been a slight mistake on the part of one individual and he has been asked to leave," said the other.

South African foreign ministry spokesman Pieter Swanepoel declined to confirm or deny Valente's expulsion, saying: "We have no comment because this impacts on our relations with a third country."

Mandela's spokesman, Parks Mankahlana, said South Africa would not comment on any aspect of the incident over the misdirected letter, adding that it had since been received by Suharto and that the peace process was on track.

"It is something that has to be dealt with very cautiously. President Suharto and all the other parties must dictate the terms of forward movement, not President Mandela," he said.

"The President really sees this as a medium to long-term effort. It is not something that can be resolved quickly."