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East Timor's President Meets With Indonesia's Wiranto - 2004-05-30

The president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, has held a meeting with General Wiranto, a candidate for the Indonesian presidency and former head of the Indonesian armed forces who has been indicted in East Timor for war crimes.

President Gusmao was on the Indonesian island of Bali Saturday on what his aides described as a private visit, but it seems clear the real purpose was to discuss current matters with his old enemy from the East Timorese independence struggle, General Wiranto.

Mr. Gusmao was a guerrilla fighter leading East Timor's quarter-century-long struggle for independence from Indonesia. General Wiranto was the head of the Indonesian army in 1999, when its forces are accused of carrying out a campaign of violence and destruction in East Timor.

The general has been indicted on war crimes charges by a United Nations-backed court in East Timor, and a warrant for his arrest was issued earlier this month.

The general, who denies any wrongdoing, is retired from the army, and has entered politics as the largest party's candidate in Indonesia's presidential elections in July. The polls show him running second to the country's former security minister. Neither side would provide any detail about Saturday's meeting. Mr. Wiranto said only that the arrest warrant was not discussed, and he described the talks as cordial. President Gusmao said nothing after the meeting, and his aides declined to comment on Sunday.

President Gusmao has taken a pragmatic approach to the violence that occurred in Timor, believing that good relations with his country's giant neighbor are more important in the long run than putting Indonesian suspects on trial.

His decision to meet with General Wiranto so close to the Indonesian elections was criticized by some of his close allies, however, including his foreign minister, Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.

The Timorese charges against General Wiranto have not hurt him domestically. But analysts say that should he win the presidency, a public reconciliation with the East Timorese leader would make it easier for Indonesia's Western allies to deal with a man accused of war crimes.