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OWENS WANTS BUSH TO DISCUSS HUMAN RIGHTS

SHARE OWENS WANTS BUSH TO DISCUSS HUMAN RIGHTS

Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, is among 118 House members who have asked President Bush to discuss human rights violations in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor as he meets with Indonesian President Suharto in Washington this weekend.

Owens, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined in the letter saying House members are concerned about continuing reports from the Roman Catholic Church about executions, rape and beatings by Indonesian soldiers among the East Timorese.The letter notes that East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and forcibly annexed the next year. More than 100,000 of the 700,000 people who lived in the colony before the invasion have perished because of the invasion and subsequent military operations.

"We wish to reiterate our support for measures to prevent further suffering for the people of East Timor," the letter said. "In particular, we believe that the United States should firmly support the continued presence in East Timor of international humanitarian organizations, as well as the efforts of human rights groups to obtain unrestricted access to the territory."

The letter added, "We acknowledge the constructive role Indonesia is playing in seeking an end to the occupation of Cambodia, and the many other political and strategic ties between our two countries. Our concern is that failure to mention the situation in East Timor . . . would signal a lack of U.S. attention to the serious human rights and humanitarian issues in that troubled country."