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Reposted with permission from Catholic World News Service


JAKARTA ( - Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili, East Timor met on Wednesday with Indonesian President H.J. Habibie to discuss ways to improve the daily lives of the East Timorese, the bishop said after the meeting.

The bishop said they did not discuss the former Portugese colony's political status, including proposals of a special status for the area and demands for a referendum on its future. Mainly Muslim Indonesia invaded Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. Bishop Belo said he welcomed Habibie's openness in the discussion. "My impression is that Indonesia has an extraordinary president from the angle of humanity, kindness and sympathy. He is very open and hopefully he can last long as the leader of Indonesia," he said after the 90-minute meeting.

"We spoke primarily about things concerning improving the situation; how we can raise the status of the East Timor community," Bishop Belo said. He added that the proposals put forward by himself and Bishop Basilio dos Nasciemento of Baucau, the only other bishop in the territory, included giving Timorese the freedom to settle where they wished as well as a reduction of troop numbers and freeing of political prisoners. "Little by little they will study, little by little (the troops) will withdraw," he said.

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