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Gusmao brushes aside release call as unimportant

Agence France Presse - August 7, 1997

Jakarta – Jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao said his release, as called for by South African President Nelson Mandela, was unimportant compared to the urgency for a settlement in East Timor, it was reported Thursday.

"My release is actually an unimportant matter. More important is how efforts to settle the East Timor problem in a just, peaceful and beneficial to all, can be continued," Gusmao told the Detective and Romantika weekly in its latest edition.

Mandela, who was granted a meeting with Gusmao when visiting Jakarta last month, has since called for the release of the East Timorese rebel who is serving a 20-year jail term here.

The release was essential to resolve the conflict in the former Portuguese colony, Mandela said.

Gusmao said he believed the South African leader's demand to meet him showed that "Mandela still sees that there are problems to be solved" in East Timor.

"That there is a world figure such as him who wants to see me, means that he considers the East Timor issue an important one," he said.

In the interview, Gusmao declined to give details on the content of his talks with Mandela, held at Jakarta's state guesthouse on July 15 with the blessing of President Suharto.