Activists Win Peace Prize for Work in East Timor

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OSLO, Norway: Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for their work towards reaching a peaceful resolution of East Timor's volatile disputes with occupying Indonesian forces. It was a somewhat surprising choice by the Nobel Committee (Pre-award favorites had included Jimmy Carter, Richard Holbrooke and Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng) that human-rights advocates hope will refocus attention on the smouldering 20-year old conflict. "The Nobel Committee's decision will really bring East Timor back in to the international spotlight," said Amnesty International, which estimates that some 200,000 people have died since 1975. "The Nobel Committee," said a spokesman, "hopes that this award will spur efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in East Timor based on the people's right to self-determination." Indonesia reacted fast and angrily, expressing its "regret" for the award. A foreign ministry spokesman singled Ramos-Horta as the most unworthy of the recipients. "It is quite clear," he told reporters, "that Mr. Ramos has been involved in inciting the people of East Timor. We think he is a political evangelist." Ramos-Horta, a former government official, has been an outspoken critic of Indonesia's government while living abroad in Austrailia and the U.S. since Indonesia annexed the country in 1975. For his part, Belo has taken a difficult role as the representative of the Catholic Church. The population is mainly Catholic, a legacy of Porturgese rule, and the church is the prime intermediary between the government and the cowed populace. After a massive crackdown in 1991 that left up to 200 pro-independence protesters dead, pressure by Belo convinced the Indonesian government to investigate the killings. As a result, two generals were relieved of duty and several officers were imprisoned. -->