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Indonesia-E.Timor Agreement Signed - 2002-02-25

Indonesian leaders and U.N. officials have signed agreements intended to improve relations between the Jakarta government and East Timor. But the negotiators failed to agree on an extradition treaty between East Timor and Jakarta. The head of the U.N. mission in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, says he could not have expected better results from the talks with Indonesia. The United Nations, which is administering East Timor, and Indonesia signed three agreements dealing with issues left over from East Timor's break from Indonesia. East Timor voted for independence in 1999 after 24 years of Indonesian occupation. Hundreds of people lost their lives in the weeks surrounding the vote in violence thought to have been orchestrated by Indonesian troops. Earlier this month, Indonesia said it would not extradite 17 suspects to face a U.N. trial in East Timor. There is no extradition treaty between East Timor and Jakarta. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda says Jakarta wants to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, but the Indonesian parliament is discussing whether the suspects can be sent to East Timor. "We have not yet touched up the substance on extradition treaty," he said. "Indonesia is actively promoting the extradition treaty and, in fact, the government is mandated to seek more agreements with our neighbors on this very issue." In a slight change to U.N. stance, Mr. De Mello suggests it is not critically important that Indonesia fully cooperate with the U.N. investigation. "What matters is justice, not where it takes place," he said. "In the future, if the independent government of East Timor decides to request the negotiations and the signature of an extradition treaty with Indonesia, it is its prerogative as is Indonesia's prerogative to respond positively." The negotiators also decided to fix the border between East Timor and Indonesia, an area that has seen conflict in the past. The talks included promoting trade ties between Indonesia and East Timor, and the payment of pensions for East Timorese who served as civil servants during Indonesian rule. The United Nations is expected to withdraw from East Timor, giving it full independence in May.