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The BBC's Richard Galpin
"There has been tight security"
 real 28k

Richard Galpin reports from Dili
"The apology is the clearest sign yet of President Wahid's wish for good relations with East Timor"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 08:42 GMT
Wahid apologises for Timor violence
President Wahid and Xanano Gusmao
The president was welcomed to Dili by Xanana Gusmao
The Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, has apologised for the violence in East Timor during its 24-year occupation by Indonesian forces.

East Timor
The apology came at the end of his brief visit, when he laid wreaths at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery, site of an infamous 1991 massacre by Indonesian troops, and at a neighbouring cemetery where Indonesian soldiers who died in a long guerrilla war are buried.

"I would like to apologise for the things that have happened in the past, to the victims or the families of Santa Cruz and those friends who are buried in the military cemetery," President Wahid said.

"These are the victims of circumstance that we didn't want," he said.

East Timorese independence supporters say up to 250 people died when troops opened fire on a funeral in November 1991. Indonesian authorities put the number at more than 50.

Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao welcomed President Wahid, saying the visit was important for both countries.

"You are a symbol of the universal principal of peace, justice, and democracy," he said.

"You bring hope to East Timor because in your country you can create [conditions] for future dialogue and democracy."

Protests

Just after declaring he felt "at home" in Dili soon after his arrival, President Wahid was forced to shelter in the governor's palace, which now serves as offices for the interim UN administration.

Around 300 protesters noisily demanded Indonesia reveal the truth about the deaths or disappearances of resistance fighters during the occupation.


Anti-independence militiamen in East Timor
Anti-independence militias left a trail of destruction
The demonstrators demanded the release of all prisoners they say are still being held by the Indonesian authorities and are calling for an international tribunal for senior Indonesian army commanders.

In addition, there were calls for the militia groups responsible for the wave of violence, murder and arson that surrounded last year's vote for independence to be brought to justice.

Earlier UN peacekeepers fired two warning shots to calm a waiting crowd as President Wahid drove from the airport to the city centre in a bullet-proof limousine.

Communique

Xanana Gusmao and fellow Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta, who had greeted the president at the airport, tried to calm the crowd.

A small delegation from the protesters was allowed inside.


President Wahid signing communique
President Wahid wants better relations with East Timorese leaders like Mr Gusmao
Mr Ramos Horta said he regretted the protest. "But this is a democratic country and people have the right to express their feelings," he said.

President Wahid called for "an atmosphere of mutual respect" between the two sides as he signed a communiqué with the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET).

It calls among other things for a corridor between East Timor and its coastal enclave of Oecussi, surrounded by Indonesian territory.

After visiting Dili, Mr Wahid is expected to fly on to West Timor, where tens of thousands of refugees from the east are still living in makeshift camps.

Kissinger involved

Before his departure for Dili, Mr Wahid appointed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger his political adviser.

Henry Kissinger
Kissinger gets job as political advisor
Calling himself a 'patriotic American', Mr Kissinger said he would gladly assist in the south-east Asian nation's transition to democracy.

He said he would be consulting Mr Wahid at least once a year on political and social policy.

The appointment appears to be a gesture aimed at boosting international confidence in Indonesia's reform program. But critics say that the US is too pro-Indonesian.

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See also:

28 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian military reformers promoted
27 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
New hope for Timor refugees
16 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia promises atrocity trials
13 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
The evidence against Wiranto
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