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DATE=10/23/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=EAST TIMOR / GUSMAO / L-O NUMBER=2-255390 BYLINE=PATRICIA NUNAN DATELINE=JAKARTA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao has pledged to do his utmost to rebuild his devastated homeland after violence wrought by anti-independence militia groups last month. But -- as Patricia Nunan reports from Jakarta -- Mr. Gusmao declines to say whether he would accept the position of president of the newly-independent nation. TEXT - Speaking at the United Nations compound in Dili Saturday, Independence leader Xanana Gusmao vowed to "raise East Timor from the ashes" left by anti- independence militia groups that went on a reign of terror in the territory last month. He also is urging the East Timorese people to forget the past and look toward to the future of the newly- independent nation. Mr. Gusmao made an emotional return to East Timor on Thursday, after spending seven years in prison and under house arrest in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The former guerrilla leader fought in the jungle for 18 years before his 1992 arrest by Indonesian authorities. He was released last month as part of the East Timor peace process. His experience as a guerrilla commander and as one of Indonesia's most famous political prisoners has prompted many to compare Mr. Gusmao to South Africa's Nelson Mandela. However, as of now, Mr. Gusmao refuses to say whether he would be available to lead East Timor. The Indonesian government granted independence to East Timor last week, after the majority of East Timorese people voted to break free of Indonesian rule in a referendum supervised by the United Nations. The move marks the end of 24 years of civil war, sparked when Indonesian troops invaded East Timor in 1975. The referendum was marred by violence when anti- independence militia groups swept through East Timor, destroying scores of towns and villages and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. An international peacekeeping force was launched in East Timor to help restore calm. Mr. Gusmao says members of anti-independence militia groups who want to return to East Timor must first confess their crimes. Hundreds of militia-members are believed to have fled into neighboring West Timor after the arrival of the peacekeepers. Mr. Gusmao says he cannot offer an amnesty to militia-members, but if they do confess, he will try to prevent the East Timorese people from seeking revenge against them. (signed). NEB / PN / WD 23-Oct-1999 06:54 AM EDT (23-Oct-1999 1054 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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