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Gusmao Calls for Trials for Those Responsible for East Timor Violence - 2002-06-17

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao says reconciliation in his violence-battered new country will only be possible if those responsible face justice. Mr. Gusmao is in Australia, on one of his first overseas trips since taking office last month.

President Gusmao says militia men accused of crimes before and after East Timor's 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia must go on trial before they can be reintegrated back into society.

Pro-Jakarta militias, allegedly backed by Indonesia's military, were responsible for more than 1,000 deaths and creating hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to escape the violence in East Timor.

Ms. Gusmao's government is trying to bring back all displaced East Timorese, including those implicated crimes.

The president of the world's newest nation told reporters in Canberra Monday the reintegration of those seeking forgiveness was a major challenge for the tiny impoverished nation. "They already know that when they come back to East Timor there will be trial, it will not be reconciliation without justice," he said.

Another challenge facing East Timor, which formally gained independence May 20, is generating revenue to help re-build the devastated country. President Gusmao and his Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard to discuss distribution of royalties from petroleum reserves in the Timor Sea, and the negotiation of maritime boundaries.

In May, the two countries agreed to jointly tap oil and gas worth billions of dollars, of which East Timor is expected to take 90 percent of the profits. But details still need to be worked out, including the demarcation of the maritime boundary.

Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta said he is confident any problems can be sorted out through neighborly discussions. "We haven't even started negotiations, we will talk with Australia and will be able to find a settlement that is satisfactory," he said.

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri is also in Australia, to attend a conference in Darwin on oil and gas development.