East Timor’s leaders received assurances in Washington Wednesday of continued U.S. support for their fledgling country’s independence and tried to push for an international war crimes tribunal to prosecute Indonesians who committed atrocities in the former territory.
Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced the Bush administration’s continued support for East Timor’s independence and economic reconstruction, said Jorge Ramos Horta, the Nobel Peace laureate, who met Powell with East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao.
“The message we got from the secretary of state is that there is going to be continuing visible engagement by the U.S. administration in East Timor to ensure that the process of transition to independence is secure and that East Timor can rebuild itself economically and democratically,” Ramos Horta told reporters.
“We came out of the meeting really very reassured,” he said.
Gusmao and Ramos Horta were to meet later with Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and with several members of Congress on Thursday.
Ramos Horta said they would ask Wolfowitz to continue the U.S. military presence in East Timor, which consists of a military assistance group and frequent port visits by Navy vessels. Those contacts “send a positive message to the region”, Ramos Horta said.
The East Timorese, who made their marks as independence advocates against the long occupation by Indonesia of the former Portuguese colony, said they were voicing their “profound frustration and unhappiness” with the way the Indonesian government was handling the investigation and prosecution of alleged atrocities in East Timor.
“There is no alternative but for the (U.N.) Security Council and the secretary general of the United Nations to push for a war crimes tribunal,” Ramos Horta said.
The delegation will travel to New York to meet with Secretary General Kofi Annan following their Washington visit.
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