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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
E Timor leader visits Indonesia
Megawati Sukarnoputri
The invitation is a tricky one for Megawati
East Timor's President-elect Xanana Gusmao has met Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Jakarta to personally invite her to his country's independence celebrations later this month.

The former guerrilla leader went to Megawati's residence straight from the airport after arriving on a United Nations flight.

The invitation has been well received

Xanana Gusmao
He spoke to the president for about 45 minutes, and later told the BBC he had received a positive response from her.

Our correspondent in Jakarta says it looks like Megawati will visit East Timor despite the opposition of members of the Indonesian parliament.

For Megawati, 20 May, independence day, marks a highly controversial issue.

The loss of East Timor following the referendum in 1999 was a body blow to the Indonesian nation, which has always been a fragile grouping of disparate islands.

For the army, it was also a humiliating defeat. The anger felt by the military was vented in the wave of violence which followed the referendum, in which the former province was systematically destroyed.

Surprise announcement

The national parliament has already officially told President Megawati she should not attend East Timor's independence celebrations.

"The invitation has been well received and Madame the president will decide later," Mr Gusmao said on Thursday when asked whether he had obtained a reply from the president.

Xanana Gusmao surrounded by reporters after his meeting with Megawati
Gusmao said he was waiting for a reply
But last week, one of the most senior government ministers announced Megawati had decided she would go, despite the opposition from MPs.

The announcement came as something of a surprise, given her cautious approach to politics, and her determination to maintain stability.

Our correspondent, Richard Galpin, says it seems the government recognises the need for good relations with East Timor, and it is not just about improving Indonesia's image within the international community.

There are also practical reasons, he says.

East Timor occupies only half the island of Timor, the rest remains part of Indonesia.

Trade and communication across the border will be vital for the people living on both sides.

And thousands of East Timorese refugees are still living in Indonesia.

The government in Jakarta is keen for them to return, if only because of the financial burden they create for the local authorities.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta
"A number of individual parties have said she should go"
Marsuki Darusman, Indonesian opposition Golkar Party
"This closes a chapter and signals a new departure"
See also:

12 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
lndonesia's struggle to move on
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