Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Former Indonesian minister dies

Indonesian former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, archive image
Mr Alatas played a key role in his country's affairs right up to his death

One of Indonesia's best known political figures, Ali Alatas, has died at the age of 76.

He served as his country's foreign minister during the violent withdrawal from East Timor in 1999.

Later he became Indonesia's ambassador to the UN, and he most recently acted as an adviser to the current President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Alatas was being treated in a hospital in Singapore, but suffered a stroke last week.

His body will be flown back to Jakarta later on Thursday for burial.

E Timor legacy

A decade ago, Ali Alatas sat at the crossroads of Indonesia's political future, according to the BBC's Jakarta correspondent Lucy Williamson.

We have lost a son of the nation
Primo Alui Joelianto, senior foreign ministry official
He was foreign minister from 1988 until 1999 - the year after autocratic President Suharto was swept from power and replaced by BJ Habibie, who steered Indonesia down a new path to democracy.

One of the first actions of the post-Suharto country was to offer East Timor - then one of its provinces - the chance to choose its future too.

The bloody independence vote that followed called for some sensitive diplomacy, our correspondent says - largely the job of Ali Alatas.

The violent withdrawal from East Timor was the subject of his ground-breaking book, which many Indonesians credit with spurring the debate over their military's role there.

Alatas continued to play a key role in Indonesian and regional affairs up until his death.

He is credited with bringing together feuding sides in Cambodia in the late 1990s, and he also worked as a UN special envoy to Burma, calling for the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We have lost a son of the nation, the most excellent diplomat we ever had," Primo Alui Joelianto, a senior foreign ministry official, told the Associated Press on hearing of Mr Alatas' death.

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Country profile: Indonesia
07 Aug 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: East Timor
07 Aug 08 |  Country profiles

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