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Gusmao, Muladi, reach agreement

Agence France Presse - April 19, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian Justice Minister Muladi and jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao on Monday agreed there had been no call for war in the troubled territory against Jakarta.

"It appears that there was a misunderstanding" of Gusmao's statement on April 5, which had been widely reported by the Indonesian press as a call for war against Indonesians in East Timor, Muladi said.

Speaking after a 35 minute meeting with Gusmao, who had been summoned from his hoome where he is under house arrest to the justice ministry, Muladi said Gusmao had explained that his statement was not a call to war, and that the rebel leader remained committed to the peace process.

Muladi last week threatened to return Gusmao to a high security prison if he failed to retract his reported statement, made through his lawyers last Monday, if in fact he had declared war on the Indonesian authorities.

Gusmao, who was moved from jail to defacto house arrest in February, said that his statement had been misrepresented by the media.

"We have explained it all, we pledged our commitment to settle [the East Timorese question] through peaceful means, through reconciliation," Gusmao told a press conference after the meeting, with Muladi on his side.

"I explained that my statement was not an incitement to war against Indonesia but just for self defence, and this has been misinterpreted," he added.

Muladi said: "Self defence anywhere cannot be stopped. It is a human right."

Gusmao reiterated his preparedness to hold dialogue with others, including the pro-Indonesian faction in East Timor.

"I am calling on my friends who are pro-integration, to return to the path of dialogue to reach a peaceful settlement in East Timor," he said.

Gusmao's lawyer, Hendardi, had said last week there was nothing to retract in the statement, saying part of it had been taken out of context.

Indonesian officials, including the military, have blamed Gusmao's statement for the recent spate of renewed violence in the troubled territory.

The Falintil, the armed wing of the pro-independence East Timorese movement, which Gusmao still heads, has stepped up attacks on pro-Indonesian target in East Timor, while armed pro-Jakarta militia have launched mass attacks on pro-independence supporters, which have left scores of dead.

Tension has risen between the two camps in East Timor following Jakarta's surprise offer in Janmuary to let go East Timor should the population reject autonomy under Indonesia in a vote this summer.