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Indonesian President Makes Reconciliation Visit to East Timor

Indonesia's president is visiting East Timor, six years after Indonesian troops and their allies tore the country apart when it voted for independence. The Indonesian and Timorese governments say they want to move on, but some Timorese people are still waiting for justice.

Six years ago, Indonesian troops and their militia allies went on the rampage through East Timor after the one-time Portuguese colony voted overwhelmingly to reject Indonesian rule. On Friday, the president of independent East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, welcomed Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with a 21-gun salute.

Indonesia has failed to bring anyone to justice for the carnage, but East Timor's government has argued that bygones should be bygones. The government has calculated that good relations with its giant neighbor are more important than seeing those responsible for the violence in jail.

But many Timorese are not so sure. They want closure for the 1500 people who died. Indonesia did set up courts to try suspects, but only charged 18 men. Of those, 17 have been acquitted and one is still free, pending appeal.

Jaoquim Fonseca ran a human rights organization during the independence vote, and now lectures at the university in Dili, the capital of East Timor, now known as Timor Leste.

"There is a general feeling that accountability for crimes against humanity in East Timor is the responsibility of the Indonesian government, as well, but it is obvious that these voices have not been heard so much by the government of Timor Leste," he said.

President Gusmao, one of the leaders of Timor's independence movement, is aware of the discontent, and unhappy about it. He went on television Thursday night threatening to resign, if people disrupted Mr. Yudhoyono's visit with demonstrations.

Timorese are not the only people who think Indonesia must do more to atone for the violence, however. The United Nations has appointed a so-called Commission of Experts to review attempts to bring to justice those responsible for the devastation. The move has been condemned by both Indonesia and East Timor, which have set up their own reconciliation commission.

The main test of the visit is likely to come on Saturday, when President Yudhoyono visits the Santa Cruz cemetery. In 1991, Indonesian troops killed hundreds of people attending a funeral there. The incident brought East Timor to the world's attention, and became a touchstone of the resistance.