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East Timor Leaders, Megawati Meet

Senior political leaders from East Timor have met for the first time with Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The meeting was aimed at improving relations as the territory prepares to become independent next year.

Members of the delegation from East Timor expressed satisfaction after meeting with President Megawati Wednesday in Jakarta.

The leader who is widely expected to become East Timor's first president, Xanana Gusmao, called the meeting cordial and fruitful. He says his delegation expressed a commitment to improve relations with Indonesia and thanked President Megawati for working to solve the problems between them.

Ms. Megawati had refused to meet with delegates from East Timor while she was vice president. But after becoming president in July, she said East Timorese had a right to independence and pledged to cooperate with their leaders.

The head of the U.N. transitional administration in the territory, Sergio Vieira de Mello, called the talks wide-ranging. He said the delegation thanked the Indonesia leader for what he called her courageous initiative. He says they also discussed the return of tens of thousands of refugees living in Indonesian West Timor. Some of the refugees belonged to anti-independence militias that devastated East Timor following the pro-independence referendum two years ago. East Timorese leaders want to re-integrate them into society in order to avoid future violence.

The U.N. transitional administration Saturday is due to swear into office a constituent assembly that was elected two weeks ago in the territory's first free elections.

The head of the party that won the elections, Fretilin's Mari Alkatiri, says he wants to establish good relations with the neighboring Indonesian West Timor. Mr. Alkatiri, who is expected to become prime minister in the first East Timorese government, says he proposed a free trade agreement with West Timor to help revive the economy and encourage the return of businessmen who fled during the violence.