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Jan 18, 2008


East Timor 'must forgive Suharto'
Jose Ramos-Horta

Mr Ramos-Horta asked East Timorese to pray for Suharto

East Timor's president has urged his countrymen to forgive ailing ex-Indonesian leader Suharto, who ruled them with an iron fist for 23 years.

Suharto, who ordered the invasion of East Timor in 1975, is critically ill in hospital in Jakarta.

Jose Ramos-Horta said he would not go to see Suharto personally but would "ask the Pope to pray for him" on an forthcoming visit to the Vatican.

He said the former leader contributed "many positive things" to Indonesia.

Mr Ramos-Horta credited Suharto with developing Indonesia and its economy, but said he had also "made many mistakes, such as massacres in Indonesia and East Timor".

"It is impossible for us to forget the past but East Timor should forgive him before he dies," said Mr Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"I ask people to pray for Suharto as the former president of Indonesia."

East Timor, which is mostly Roman Catholic, gained independence in 1999 - one year after Suharto stepped down amid widespread protests.

Analysts believe at least 100,000 East Timorese died in conflict or as a result of preventable diseases during the Indonesian occupation.

Suharto was taken into hospital in early January and has since suffered a blood infection, pneumonia and organ failure.


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