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East Timor bishops seek Indonesian military help to repatriate refugees

Bishops Carlos Belo and Basilio do Nascimento have requested help from an Indonesian military chief in facilitating the return of East Timorese refugees who have remained in camps in West Timor since 1999.

The Indonesian news review Tempo reports on a recent meeting in Dili between Maj. Gen. Willem T Da Costa and the two bishops.

"Since it is the bishops who are asking our help, I'm convinced there is no longer vengeful sentiments among the [East Timorese] people. They are now focusing on building their country," Da Costa told Tempo.

Tempo says the bishops conceded to Da Costa that "the right to freedom and to the land of [East Timor] is not the monopoly of those claiming to be freedom fighters".

Belo and Nascimento have insisted that returning refugees who were members of the militias that ravaged the country in 1999 must "walk hand in hand" with those with whom they fought, in order to rebuild the country.

The Tempo article also indicates that Da Costa is facing some opposition from within Indonesia on account of his efforts to co-operate with the wishes of the Catholic bishops.