Lisbon – Portugal has urged South Africa to resist pressure from Indonesia after Pretoria expelled the Portuguese ambassador Vasco Valente over the leaking of a misdirected note from President Nelson Mandela to his Indonesian counterpart, General Suharto.
The Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Ana Zacarias, reading a statement on Tuesday, said "South African authorities should not be susceptible to poisoning of Portugal by Indonesia", urging President Mandela to continue his efforts to find a solution for the southeast Asian territory of East Timor.
Mandela, who announced recently he would assist the United Nations efforts to resolve the conflict over East Timor, said he had written to Suharto in mid-July, asking him to release East Timorese rebel leader, Xanana Gusmao, serving a 20-year sentence in Jakarta's Cipinang prison for resisting Indonesian rule.
The letter was sent in error to the Portuguese embassy in the South African capital, and the ambassador thought that the letter was a copy for his consideration.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it one year later but the United Nations (U.N.) still regards Portugal as the territory's administering power.
The U.N. has sponsored talks between Lisbon and Jakarta to settle the dispute, but they have failed to bring any results to date.
The ministry's statement said also that "despite our profound disappointment with the disproportionate attitude by the South African authorities, everything will be done to on the Portuguese side to ensure that a climate of good relations is maintained between Portugal and South Africa".