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East Timorese leadership holds first meeting with Indonesian President

East Timorese leadership holds first meeting with Indonesian President

East Timorese leaders met today in Jakarta with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri for the first time since she took office, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) said on Wednesday.

After the meeting, UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs Jose Ramos Horta, independence leader Xanana Gusmão and Chief Minister designate Mari Alkatiri, described the 40-minute encounter as "extremely cordial."

The group discussed the establishment of a long-term relationship based on cooperation and friendship between East Timor and Indonesia, the need to rapidly resolve the question of refugees, and economic issues such as the possible creation of a free trade zone between East and West Timor.

"The Indonesian president is very open and positive regarding all of the issues discussed, including economic cooperation with Indonesia and the idea of establishing a triangle cooperation and development area integrating East Timor, West Timor, and the Northern Territory of Australia," Mari Alkatiri said.

Mr. Ramos-Horta said the meeting had opened "a new page in the bilateral relations between East Timor and Indonesia," while Mr. Gusmão said the participants had concluded "that we have the same objectives for the future."

In a separate meeting with the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, it was decided that all bilateral issues be discussed on a technical level in the near future, followed by a second, high-level meeting in Denpasar, Indonesia, in mid-October. That meeting will be co-chaired by the UNTAET chief, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the East Timorese leadership.

In other news, the East Timor leadership today joined a host of other nations in expressing shock and condemnation at the terrorist attacks committed against the United States on Tuesday. Mr. Vieira de Mello, Mari Alkatiri, Mr. Ramos-Horta and Mr. Gusmão expressed their sympathies in a letter to US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"No amount or formulation of words can properly convey the sympathy we and the people of East Timor feel for the victims of this appalling crime, their families and the people and Government of the United States," the letter said. "While this fledging country is unfortunately in no position to offer much in the way of material support, what it can offer in abundance, and which it does with all its heart, is moral support to a true friend in its time of need."