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The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Australia is placing considerable importance on this visit"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Wahid reaches out to Australia
President Wahid and Prime Minister Howard
Howard and Wahid have agreed to regular visits
The leaders of Australia and Indonesia have vowed to begin a new era in their relations and put differences over East Timor behind them.

Speaking in Canberra during the first visit by an Indonesian president in 26 years, Abdurrahman Wahid said he hoped things were now set to go more smoothly between the two countries.

Strains over East Timor should be put behind us

John Howard
East Timor has dogged relations between the two countries ever since Indonesia's invasion in 1975, but in 1999 the region voted for independence from Jakarta.

Both Mr Wahid and Australian Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged the strain their countries' relationship had been under.

"Both of us are very strongly of the view that the strains over East Timor, understandable though they were in the context of those events, should ... be put behind us," Mr Howard said.

War crimes

He said both men had agreed to regular visits between the two countries' leaders.

And the Australian leader also welcomed Mr Wahid's suggestion of a new regional diplomatic forum for the western Pacific.

But East Timor was a dominant feature on the agenda.

Australia was at the forefront of international efforts to stop the violence there, largely blamed on Indonesian-backed militias.

Mr Howard said the two sides discussed setting up tribunals to prosecute war crimes linked to the independence vote.

And Mr Wahid renewed a pledge to prosecute people who carried out atrocities in East Timor, which voted for independence from Jakarta in 1999.

"They have to be brought to justice. The law enforcement will take place in Indonesia but, of course, it needs time," Mr Wahid said.

Mr Wahid has promised to set up a tribunal before.

Critics say there is unlikely to be progress while Mr Wahid remains overshadowed by an opposition campaign to impeach him on corruption charges he vehemently denies.

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See also:

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