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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

UK Politics

Timor leader praises Labour

Robin Cook with Vetan Surroi from Kosovo

Labour's claims that its "ethical" foreign policy remains intact have been boosted by a message of thanks from East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao.

In a video shown to the party's annual conference, Mr Gusmao expressed his gratitude to Labour for its role in achieving independence for East Timor.

The message, which was introduced by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, is likely to be seen as a major coup for the government as it attempts to shrug off controversy over its arm sales to Indonesia.

Mr Gusmao said Labour had much to be proud of. However, he made no mention of the government's decision to continue to supply Hawk warplanes to Jakarta until several days after pro-Indonesian militia went on the rampage following the independence referendum.

East Timor
"For many years the Labour Party has given us support and strength. Since you have been in government you have stood by us and played a key part to secure independence for East Timor," he said.

Mr Gusmao also praised the government for helping to galvanise world opinion to send United Nations troops to East Timor.

[ image: Xanana Gusmao addressed the conference on video]
Xanana Gusmao addressed the conference on video
"You can be proud of the role you have played in East Timor. You have shown you are prepared to take bold steps for what you believe," he said.

On a personal note Mr Gusmao also expressed his gratitude to British embassy personnel for sheltering himself and a relative.

He also paid tribute to the late Foreign Office minister Derek Fatchett who visited him when he was placed under house arrest by the Indonesian government. "His death is a loss of for us all," he said.

[ image: Labour has been criticised for letting Indonesia buy warplanes]
Labour has been criticised for letting Indonesia buy warplanes
Referring to Labour's centenary celebrations, Mr Gusmao added: "In 100 years time we will celebrate the first centenary of independent East Timor and you will celebrate your second century."

Earlier Mr Cook had defended the government's record in East Timor.

Xanana Gusmao: Labour had much to be pround of
He said that while it had honoured contracts for the Hawks which the last government had agreed it had stopped new sales of armoured vehicles and snipers rifles.

"I am content to be judged by the people of East Timor," he said.

'UK kept promises to Kosovo'

The government's foreign policy was also praised by another foreign guest who spoke in the conference debate on Britain's role in the world.

Kosovo: Special Report
Vetan Surroi, the publisher of an ethnic Albanian newspaper in Kosovo thanked Britain for intervening in his homeland to stop ethnic cleansing.

"For someone like me, who believed in the words told to me by minister Cook long before the bombing campaign began that the Kosovars would not be let alone, watching British paras patrol the street that had just 24 hours before been patrolled by the most ruthless thugs of the Serb military and the police, was a promise fulfilled," he said.

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