Subject: Xanana Gusmao Won't Seek East Timor Title

also: Timorese independence leader declines presidency

Leader Won't Seek East Timor Title
The Associated Press April 5, 2001


UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The former guerilla leader who fought for East Timor's independence said Thursday he will not seek to become his country's first president, but will work in other ways to help East Timor make the transition to democracy.

Xanana Gusmao said at a United Nations news conference that he is committed to helping the democratic process, but not as president.

``It is only a myth that a leader of resistance has to be the first president,'' said Gusmao, who appeared with his wife and their 6-month-old son.

Gusmao said he would help the East Timorese adapt to democracy, assume its responsibilities, and face its inevitable difficulties.

``I want to help people understand the government system is ours,'' he said. ``We will remain in a difficult challenge, but we have to believe in our government, our institutions.''

East Timor and Indonesian-held West Timor share an island in the Indonesian archipelago. Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the former Portuguese colony the following year.

In 1999, after a long battle led by Gusmao, the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum, triggering a wave of violence by pro-Indonesia militias. The territory is to be administered by the United Nations until it achieves independence.

Last month, Gusmao resigned his post as head of East Timor's transitional National Council, a consultative body appointed by the U.N. administration. A new governing body is to be elected Aug. 30 and presidential elections are expected early next year.

There has been some speculation that Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta might seek the presidency.

Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi, who visited East Timor last week, told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that the schedule for elections is tight, and can only be kept if voter registration of is completed by June 24. About 600,000 people live in East Timor.

Gusmao's Australian-born wife, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, sought support at Thursday's press conference for her campaign to free Juliana dos Santos, a 15-year old girl she said is being held in sexual slavery in West Timor.

Accusing Indonesian authorities of not honoring their agreements to return Juliana, she demanded freedom for the ``hundreds, possibly thousands'' of East Timorese women being held against their will.

Timorese independence leader declines presidency

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 (Reuters) - Xanana Gusmao, the popular East Timorese resistance leader, said on Thursday he would not run for president when the former Portuguese colony achieves independence next year.

Instead Gusmao said he could do more good from outside the government to help East Timor make the transition to an independent democratic country.

The territory, now under U.N. administration, was invaded by Indonesia in 1974 after Portugal withdrew.

"It is only a myth that a leader of the resistance has to be the first president," he told a news conference with his Australian-born wife and six-month son by his side. "I commit myself to help the process but not from the inside."

Referring to his years as a guerrilla leader against Indonesian rule, Gusmao quipped: "I am not an expert at anything -- except perhaps how to kill enemies."

Last month, Gusmao, citing political disagreements, resigned as head of East Timor's National Council, a legislative and consultative body appointed by the United Nations.

The council is to be dissolved in June ahead of Aug. 30 elections to choose a new legislative body that will draw up a national constitution. Presidential elections will then be held and East Timor is expected to achieve independence in the first half of 2002.

Gusmao said he was critical of the U.N. Administration in East Timor, known as UNTAET, for not focusing enough on "capacity building" or preparing East Timorese for independence. But he said he was aware it was the first time the world body was involved in such an extensive undertaking.

His wife, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, explained later that a Timorese government would not have much room to maneuver in the early years of independence. Politics, she said, would be determined by financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whose help is badly needed in the impoverished half-island.

Although there was international and domestic pressure on Gusmao to become the country's new leader, he felt he could urge people to be patient and calm if he were outside the system, she said. "If he says it from the inside, he can be accused of accused of enjoying privileges and not be taken seriously," she added.

As Gusmao held his press conference, the U.N. Security Council, one floor, below conducted an open briefing on East Timor. British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock said Gusmao's resignation was "of some concern" but it was "very important" he continued contributing to national affairs.

Hedi Annabi, the assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping who just returned from a trip to East Timor, said the schedule for elections could only be kept if voter registration was completed by June 24.

An estimated 100,000 men, women and children will not be in East Timor for the poll. Many are still in captivity in neighboring Indonesian West Timor. They were taken there by armed gangs organized by the Indonesian army after East Timorese voted for independence in a U.N.-organized poll.

Annabi said he was pleased by recent increases in the number of returning refugees. But he noted 100,000 people were still subject to intimidation and propaganda by militia across the border in West Timor.

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