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Rebel leader vows to fight on

Associated Press - August 3, 1998 (abridged)

Jakarta – Rebels struggling for independence for East Timor say they will continue to fight Indonesian troops despite fresh diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the troubled territory.

"We've never lost hope. We will stand firm. We'll fight on until the independence of East Timor is won," said guerrilla commander Taur Matan Ruak in an interview released by Associated Press Television on Monday.

Ruak took command of rebel forces earlier this year in Timor's mountainous interior where several hundred rebels have waged a hit-and-run war since Indonesian troops invaded in 1975. However, the Indonesian military says there have been no clashes in more than two months and estimate the number of rebels at about 200.

Ruak's words of defiance come ahead of talks between the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Portugal, East Timor's former colonial master, to be held at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In a gesture of goodwill, Indonesia withdrew about 400 of its 12,000 troops from the territory last week. Another 600 are scheduled to leave this month. However, Ruak, described the partial pullout as "possibly just a publicity stunt." "Until now, Indonesians have never shown good faith when it comes to withdrawing their troops," he said. Instead he called for UN supervision of troop withdrawals.